Winning the Peace

Winning the Peace

Bayanihan, the Philippine Internal Peace and Security Plan, fosters collaboration among civil, government and military communities to combat insurgents

Gen. (Ret.) Emmanuel T. Bautista

The Philippines’ long experience in addressing insurgencies has led to many realizations. Foremost, the problem of insurgency is multifaceted and complex, requiring a comprehensive approach.

Success in responding to this challenge can only be achieved if the whole nation commits to a solution. This is exactly the focus of the Philippine Internal Peace and Security Plan — a shared concept of security among stakeholders and their involvement in achieving peace and security. The plan is known as Bayanihan, which translates to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a particular goal.

Philippine Marines patrol a cleared street in range of enemy sniper fire as they walk toward the main battle area in Marawi, southern Philippines, in July 2017. [GETTY IMAGES]

Several salient features distinguish Bayanihan from past strategies. First, it is an open document that is shared, co-owned and co-authored by the broadest spectrum of stakeholders. National and local government agencies, nongovernment entities and the entire citizenry were involved from the planning to the implementation and evaluation phases. Second, the plan emphasizes that the primary focus in the conduct of its military operations is winning the peace, which is more important than just defeating the enemy.

To this end, Bayanihan departs from its old frameworks and explores noncombat parameters in addressing threats to the country’s peace and security. Third, Bayanihan adheres to the government’s overall peace framework. As much as it is not the plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) alone, Bayanihan does not exist in a vacuum. It is done in harmony with national policies for peace, security and development.

The Philippines addresses three principal threat groups. First is the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (NPA)/National Democratic Front (CNN), which seeks to overthrow the democratic government and replace it with a communist form of government. Second is the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which aims to secede from the republic and form an independent Islamic State. Third is the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a terrorist group notorious for its kidnap-for-ransom activities.

The strategic end state

Under Bayanihan, the AFP redrew its mission “to conduct support operations to win the peace in order to help the Filipino people establish an environment conducive for sustainable development and a just and lasting peace.” The term “support operations” is used to emphasize the role that the AFP assumes under Bayanihan. The mission brings to the fore the importance of having the civil government take the lead in addressing insurgency. This is translated to an end state where capabilities of internal armed threats are reduced to a level that they can no longer threaten the stability of the state and civil authorities can ensure the safety and well-being of the Filipino people.

The end state is achieved through the attainment of the following objectives:

  • Contribute to the success of the peace process.
  • Maintain a professional armed force serving under firm democratic civilian control.
  • Defeat the ASG and its allied armed threat groups.
  • Contribute to the resolution of conflict with the NPA, MILF and other armed threat groups.
  • Contribute to the establishment of conditions for civil authorities to take responsibility for the safety and well-being of their constituents.
  • Support developmental, environmental protection, disaster risk reduction management and law enforcement activities.

Given the varied means and motivations of the armed threat groups, a nuanced approach is necessary. For the ASG, because of the policy of no negotiation with terrorists, the desired end state is its unequivocal defeat. Regarding the CNN, the AFP’s initiatives focus on rendering the armed component irrelevant, with the insurgents abandoning armed struggle and ultimately engaging in peace negotiations with the government. For the MILF secessionist group, the projected national end state is a negotiated political settlement within the bounds of the Philippine Constitution.

The Bayanihan concept

Bayanihan’s new paradigm in the conduct of operations is “winning the peace more than defeating the enemy.” Beyond the immediate goal of diminishing the armed capability of threat groups, the AFP gives weight to the long-term and equally important effects of military operations on the people’s way of life and their well-being. To genuinely win the peace, Bayanihan is underpinned by two strategic approaches: the whole-of-nation approach and the people-centered approach.

The whole-of-nation approach calls on the active participation and involvement of all stakeholders in pursuit of peace and security. This is centered on the recognition that a military solution alone is inadequate in resolving internal peace and security issues. Bayanihan sheds light on a concept of security that is shared not just among security forces and government agencies but also with nongovernment entities and other sectors of society. The plan presumes that even ordinary citizens are essential contributors to the attainment of peace and security. In this context, the role of the AFP is to actively engage its counterparts and partners in consultation and dialogue, forge partnerships, and build a broad peace and security constituency.

Guerrillas of the New People’s Army stand in formation in the Sierra Madre mountain range, east of Manila, in July 2017. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES]

The people-centered security/human security approach situates the people’s welfare at the center of military operations. Within the broader frame of human security, it gives primacy to human rights and explores ways for promoting security and safety based on the needs and realities at the grassroots level. To win the peace, the protection of civilians is an end goal. The concept of human security has several components: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political requiring the entire government bureaucracy, the private sector and the civil society to collectively implement.

All military operations are guided by two overarching strategic imperatives. First is the adherence to the ideals of human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law. Second, it is important that all stakeholders are active contributors in the pursuit of internal peace and security.

These strategic imperatives underpin the courses of action that the AFP undertakes. First, the AFP contributes to the permanent and peaceful closure of all armed conflicts. This entails the AFP’s adherence to the primacy of the peace process. Military capabilities are only employed if merited by the security situation in an area. Equally important, the AFP adheres to the government’s agreements on the cessation of hostilities or suspension of military activities.

Second, while the AFP gives primacy to the peace process, the conduct of military operations is also heightened. This time, however, legitimate military operations focus on the armed component of the threat groups with zero tolerance for collateral damage. Given the different characteristics of these threat groups and the desired end state for each, distinct methodologies are applied.

For the CNN to abandon the armed struggle and return to the negotiating table, sustained pressure needs to be applied. This could be in the form of physical and social pressure. Physical pressure is exerted through the conduct of intelligence-driven combat operations, complemented by law enforcement operations and prosecution. On the other hand, social pressure is applied through activities with multiple stakeholders to mainstream the idea that armed struggle is an unacceptable act to achieve political ends. While pressure is applied, insurgents are given a way out through the establishment of appropriate mechanisms for them to lay down their arms and return to mainstream society.

For the MILF, a credible deterrent posture must be established for a negotiated political settlement to be achieved. This is to encourage the MILF to continue to adhere to the path of peace until a negotiated settlement is reached. Credible deterrence is achieved by demonstrating AFP’s readiness and willingness to use legitimate force to decisively deal with any attempt from the MILF to return to armed hostilities.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, Philippine Armed Forces chief, right, leads a
fist-bump gesture with top military and defense officials during his visit to a military camp in May 2017. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]

The unequivocal defeat of the ASG can be realized by isolating it so that military force may be applied with precision. Isolation is achieved by exposing the atrocities of the terrorist groups to instigate widespread condemnation from local and international stakeholders. Measures are undertaken to isolate terrorist groups from foreign support and influence. It is likewise essential that they are isolated from other internal armed threat groups to prevent radicalization. Terrorists must also be denied mass base support to deprive them of sanctuaries and popular support.

Third is support to community-based peace and development efforts. This is focused on securing and bringing peace and development to conflict-affected areas. Consistent with the whole-of-nation approach, the AFP’s support to governance initiatives is pursued from the national level down to the grassroots level with emphasis on maintaining policy cohesion and consistency. This undertaking gives credence to comprehensively addressing insurgency with military and nonmilitary initiatives in tandem with relevant stakeholders. The underlying intent is to conscientiously identify and address the core issues that motivate radicalization.

Fourth, the AFP recognizes that to successfully carry out the plan, it must undergo a sincere effort to reform the institution. Thus, the AFP undertakes initiatives along the lines of security sector reform geared toward capability development, professionalization and involvement of stakeholders in AFP initiatives. It must be emphasized that by undertaking the necessary reforms, the AFP stands to increase institutional efficiency and can take the high ground in its fight against threats to internal peace and security.

What we have realized

In its six-year implementation, Bayanihan has achieved tangible and intangible results. First, a negotiated political settlement with the MILF has been achieved. What remains to be done is to legislate what has been agreed upon. Bayanihan has also led to the declaration of 68 out of 76 CNN-affected provinces as peaceful and ready for further development. This means that the situation has normalized and that civil authorities can now take responsibility for the safety and well-being of the people in their localities. As for the ASG, it is continuously being isolated to set the stage for its eventual destruction.

Among the intangible results: There is now a growing peace constituency in the country; there is change in how the people perceive the military due to its professionalism and a much improved human rights record; and there is popular support for the military and its campaign.

Philippine Air Force (PAF) personnel, who were deployed to Marawi, march during a ceremony welcoming them home at the PAF headquarters in Pasay City, near Manila in November 2017. [REUTERS]

The Bayanihan experience has led to some key learnings. First, preparing security forces is key for successfully addressing insurgency. The Armed Forces must be prepared to assume new roles under a new paradigm. There is a need to achieve the moral high ground through institutional reforms if the military is to succeed in addressing insurgency.

Second, there is a need for strong involvement and coordination among stakeholders. Without synergy of efforts, Bayanihan would remain merely as a plan. Only when a shared concept of security is formed can responsibilities be shared among all stakeholders. This enables the mobilization of a cohesive national effort to address the root causes of insurgency. Good governance and civilian leadership are key to achieving this.

For Bayanihan to have a meaningful impact, its implementation needs to be sustained. This highlights the importance of continuity in policy and strategy over a long period. The execution of the plan should transcend changes in both civilian and military leadership.

Recent crises around the world demonstrate that threats have evolved to take on a global character beyond the control of any single state. Links between local threat groups and international terrorists have changed the dynamics of national insurgencies. If security concerns are to be addressed comprehensively, greater collaboration among governments, international and regional organizations, and civil societies needs to take place. Nations must come together as a world community with a shared understanding and a common purpose. As various security threats evolve to be a global problem, the demand for a paradigm capable of addressing globalized threats also becomes critical. Hence, the concept for “global Bayanihan” becomes relevant.