The Abu Sayyaf Group
At the time of this writing, two politically explosive events are unfolding before the eyes of the Filipino people through the wonders of modern day information and communications technology and multi-media. One is the life and death ordeal of some nineteen innocent civilian hostages, including two, possibly three, American and two Chinese nationals, most of whom are in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the jungle fastness of Basilan Island, a part of the major island group of Mindanao in Southern Philippines. Some of these hostages, like those who have been victimized before them, have been in the hands of the ASG for over a hundred days now. Other victims, held hostage before them by the ASG, have been inhumanly beheaded to intimidate the military, the government and the public at large to give in to the extremists’ demands. No one knows what fate has in store for the present batch of helpless victims.
The other event I refer to is a congressional investigation in aid of legislation which is being conducted by both houses of the Filipino Parliament, with full media coverage and drama, on the charges by a Roman Catholic priest of collusion between the ASG and top local military commanders in the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the group. Coming in the wake of the on-going hostage situation, the investigation is expected to put into close scrutiny the policies, strategy and military tactics employed against the ASG.
Hopes that some of the findings, conclusions, assessment and prognosis of this paper would have been validated or repudiated by the reports of either or both congressional committees of the country were belied by events. Though the Senate and House Committees have ended their high-profile public hearings on the charges against the military, they have not yet made public their findings.
The Army, in the meantime, has initiated a renewed and reinvigorated military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf Group, some of the results of which are being heralded by the military and the media.
In the light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the US, and the Philippines’ early response to join the US-led coalition against terrorism, more than a dozen US military and civilian experts have arrived in Mindanao to help the Philippines in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf.
Also in the meantime, of the civilians being held hostage by the group, eight Filipinos have escaped; one US citizen has been confirmed dead (beheaded); leaving 10 more in the hands of the group, including two Americans.
Elsewhere in Mindanao, a Chinese national was released by his abductors after his companion was killed. Rumours persist that as much as Php25 million was paid for his release. Another Italian missionary has also been abducted and is currently being held hostage.
It may be recalled that the ASG traces its beginnings way back to the mid-nineteen eighties. Originally known as the Mujahideen Commando Freedom Fighters, it was first thought of as nothing more than just a local (provincial) version of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and/or the Moro-Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a breakaway faction from the former movement. In fact, the ASG’s first known leader Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani, a bright and charismatic Filipino scholar who studied in Libya and Mecca, was an MNLF follower who fell into disagreement and out of the graces of the MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari when he criticised the Chair for coming to terms with the government under the "Tripoli Agreement" brokered by Colonel Muammar Khadaffy of Libya in 1976. Through that agreement, MNLF Chairman Misuari was accused of having compromised the MNLF’s avowed goal of establishing a separate Islamic state in exchange for the establishment of a separate Muslim autonomous government in the Southern Philippines, but under the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.
The ASG made itself infamous in a big way in the early 1990s when, in August 1991, the group bombed the MV Doulos in Zamboanga City and subsequently assassinated an Italian Catholic priest and a German journalist. The character of its leader and his group emerged when he said he wanted to unify all sectors in the predominantly Muslim provinces in the South and offered the ASG as the only alternative and genuine secessionist movement. Since then, the group has figured in a succession of incidents of banditry and brigandage, characterised by extreme ruthlessness and wanton disregard for lives, especially those of Christians. The group’s marching order to its members was to kill if necessary, all enemies who stood in the way of achieving their Islamic goal of the ‘rule of the Koran.’
The ASG called attention to itself in a big way after the MNLF and MILF, in separate moves, distanced themselves from the group and, on certain occasions, even joined the government and civil society in denouncing and condemning the group as un-Islamic. The government has since then launched successive police and military operations in the Basilan province (the main ASG enclave) and neighbouring Zamboanga peninsula and part of Sulu Island, where the group has created expansionist inroads and established enclaves. Over time, from 1991 to 2001, the military and police have relentlessly conducted search and destroy operations against the ASG. The reported successes of these military-police operations resulted in, among others, the death of the charismatic leader Janjalani and his trusted deputy Edwin Angeles and many of their followers in their known lairs in Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu. The reports of the military-police about their successes against the ASG also gave the public the impression and a false assurance that the ASG was effectively decimated and no longer capable of terrorising the nation. This complacency was dispelled with its recent re-emergence with the attack, using high-powered speedboats, on the island resort of Sipadan off Malaysia, where they took 21 hostages, as well as their more recent attack on the island resort of Dos Palmas, Palawan, in the Philippines, where they took another 20 hostages. The two recent, unprecedented, daring and successful raids carried out by the ASG not only proved to all that the group was still around and very much capable of carrying out terrorist attacks on soft targets, but also demonstrated their extended reach from their bases in Basilan Island.
To better understand the menace that the ASG is, it is useful to get acquainted with the environment (the pond) in which the ASG (the fish) thrives. The Philippines is strategically located in the Southeast Asian region (Figure 1) and belongs to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN. It was discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, named after the King of Spain and became a colony of that once-mighty Empire. Understandably, the Spaniards brought with them, among other things, their religion, and proceeded to convert the native inhabitants to Christianity. Today, the predominant religion in the Philippines is the Roman Catholic Faith professed by some 83% of the country’s 81-million population.
As a colony of Spain, the Philippines was ruled through Mexico from 1565 to 1821, after which Mexico gained her independence from Spain. Spain took direct control of the Philippines from 1821 through the Council of the Indies; from 1837 through the Council of the Ministries; and finally from 1863 by the Ministry of the Colonies.
Pockets of resistance thrived throughout this period, and eventually a full-blown rebellion erupted in the Philippines, which Spain countered with a pacification campaign. The regions most difficult to pacify were the Southern regions in the major island group of Mindanao, especially those inhabited predominantly by Muslim Filipinos.
In 1897, Spain, having lost the war against the United States, ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. The Philippines then became a protectorate of the US. Understandably, during American rule of the Philippines, the Americans brought with them their own system of government and western way of life.
The initial honeymoon that the Filipinos had with the Americans, which at first they considered as deliverance from the tyranny of Spain, did not last long. Pockets of resistance and rebellion erupted and persisted. Just like Spain, the United States experienced much difficulty in pacifying and ruling the country’s southern regions, especially those that were predominantly populated by the Muslim Filipinos. It is well known that the Caliber 45 US pistol was precisely designed to stop a rampaging Muslim bandit dead in his tracks.
In 1942, after the epic battles of Bataan and Corregidor against the invading Japanese forces, and the retreat of General Douglas McArthur from the Philippines to Australia, the short-lived Japanese occupation of the Philippines began. While Japanese occupation achieved substantial success, Filipinos, including the Muslim brothers, resisted fiercely and fought the Japanese invading and occupation forces. The Japanese, of course, responded with their own brand of cruel retribution. This phase ended, however, with the defeat of Japan and the end of World War II.
The Philippines was finally granted her independence by the United States of America on July 4, 1946. From then on, the country chartered its own future with its own leaders. Some pundits describe Philippine history as 400 years in a monastery (referring to Catholicism under Spain) and 50 years in Hollywood (referring to liberalism and the American rule).
The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them. The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land, and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, co-operation and amity with all nations. Civilian authority is at all times supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines are the protectors of the people and state, and their goal is to secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory. The prime duty of the state is to serve and protect the people. The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty and property, and the promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessing of democracy. The separation of Church and State is inviolable. These are the fundamental principles enshrined in the Philippine Constitution.
The government of the Republic of the Philippines comprises three co-equal and complementary power centres, the Executive for governance and execution of laws; the Legislative composed of two houses of Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate) for the enactment of laws; and the Judicial for interpreting laws and the administration of justice.
The head of the government is the President who is elected directly by the electorate for a non-extendable term of six years. The senators and representatives are likewise elected on a national and regional basis respectively for overlapping terms of six years and three years respectively. There are statutory limits to their term. There are 24 senators and not more than 250 representatives in the house which includes a number of sectoral representatives.
Local government is administered through a network of regional, provincial, city and municipal government units and elected officials. The national government is administered at the local levels through a bureaucracy of career (civil service) and appointed officials.
The Philippine economy is an open market economy. It is classified as a developing economy and has been characterised by short bursts of ‘bust and boom’ periods. These periods correlate closely to political instability and stability of the government. It may also be characterised as an agricultural (feudal) economy with a GDP growth of 4.9 per cent in the year 2000 and expected GDP growth of 2.5 per cent for the year 2001. Its economic development has long been surpassed by Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan and more recently by Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand. It was unkindly described for some time as the "Sick Man of Asia".
The incidence of poverty remains high at about 40 per cent, even after poverty reduction and alleviation became the buzzwords of every government official and every aspirant for an elective office. The Philippines lags behind its ASEAN neighbours on poverty reduction despite a high literacy rate and an English speaking population. The unemployment rate hovers around 14 per cent. The Philippines has a favourable balance of trade with its major trading partners, namely the US, Japan and the European Union, in that order. In addition to raw material exports, the Philippines export clothing, furniture, fresh produce and electronic components, with the latter accounting for more than 60 per cent of its exports. The Philippines is still highly dependent on foreign capital and borrowings. Its total external debt is estimated at $57.1 billion at year-end 2000. Debt servicing accounts for more than 30 per cent of the annual budget.
SECURITY, PEACE AND ORDER
The Philippines has its Armed Forces (AFP) largely patterned after the USA. The President is the Commander-in-Chief of all the armed forces of the Philippines, and is assisted by a civilian National Security Adviser and a Secretary of National Defence, both cabinet members with the rank of Secretary. The AFP is commanded by a Chief of Staff, appointed by the President for a non-extendable maximum term of three years. The AFP is composed of three major services, the Army, Air Force and Navy with a total force of about 120,000 men. The principal mandate of the AFP is to protect the people and state and secure the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. The AFP’s budget for the year 2000 is P39.207 billion or 7.31 per cent of a total budget of P536.267 billion.
For many years after 1946, the AFP was heavily dependent for its hardware and for external defence on the US in view of the military bases in the Philippines. These bases have now been removed by virtue of the non-ratification of the US-RP Military Agreement in 1991 by the Philippine Senate. The removal of US military bases from the country resulted in the withholding of military grants and aid by the US to the Philippine Forces, substantially reducing, over time, the operational capabilities of the AFP.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is the national law enforcement agency. It is national in scope and civilian in character. Its creation was mandated by the Constitution after the demise of the Martial Law Regime of the former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 through a Peoples’ Power Revolution. Its predecessor, the Philippine Constabulary – Integrated National Police (PC-INP) was a Martial Law creation of the 1970s, when the local police forces under the various towns and cities were integrated into the national police (PC), which at that time and up to 1990 was a major service of the AFP. As such the present PNP, although now a civilian agency, retains some features of the military establishment. The PNP has a strength of about 100,000 men. Its budget for the year is P29.09 billion, or 5.34 per cent of the total budget of P536.267 billion. It is structured with a national, regional, provincial, city or municipality and district headquarters as well as operating units down to small community police stations. Its mandate is to enforce the law and maintain peace and order.
The PNP has been beset with leadership, organisational, and logistical problem since its creation. Initially it had the primary responsibility for internal security operations (as contrasted with external defence that was the AFP’s mandate). That responsibility for internal security operations (ISO) has recently been transferred from the PNP to on the AFP. This, reportedly, is to lighten its burden of the PNP and allow it to concentrate more on the problem of crime. The main threat to national security of the Republic, currently, is internal and not external.
The interrelationship between the AFP and PNP is blurred by their overlapping mandates. The PNP is tasked to support the AFP in its ISO, and conversely, the AFP is tasked to support the PNP in its anti-crime drive. Often the media and the general public are unable to distinguish the two, and are content to lump them into one.
The Philippine’s security problem traces its roots to history: She has the longest surviving insurgencies among many Asian nations. Only a little over a decade ago it seemed that the Philippine government would not survive the onslaught of the various anti-government groups that threatened its existence. At that time the country’s security forces were locked in an intense battle against a persistent local communist movement (LCM) which reared its ugly head more than five decades ago. At its peak in the late eighties, the LCM boasted of some 25,800 members, with some 12,500 high-powered firearms (estimated) scattered all over the country, affecting over 8,000 of the more than 40,000 villages nation-wide, that is, almost 20% of the total number of villages of the country. At the same time, two major Muslim secessionist/separatist groups, with a combined force of about 25,200 (in 1995), were similarly engaging the government forces in Southern Philippines. This problem erupted some 25 years ago in Mindanao and also persists to this day. Finally, the country had to contend with a rebellion in the barracks of the military when elements opposed to then President Corazon Aquino, joined by elements loyal to former President Ferdinand Marcos, launched a series of attempted coups to topple President Aquino’s government. It was, indeed, a miracle that the Republic and its security forces survived these serious internal onslaughts against their very existence. Through the years and especially in the post-US bases era, AFP-PNP internal operations against these threat groups have also caused much wear and tear and substantial material and manpower losses to their operational capability. The loss of the US Military Assistance Program (MAP) and Foreign Military Sales Credit (FMS) by virtue of the non-ratification of the US-RP Military Bases Agreement were serious setbacks in the capability development program of the armed forces.
The governments’ current countermeasures against the internal security threats facing the country are contained in its National Peace and Development Plan, S-2000. The plan’s stated intent is to resolve the threat caused by the Local Communist Movement by addressing the root causes of insurgency through economic, social, cultural and political reforms and development (the left hand effort), while defeating the armed elements and dismantling their political and military structure at the grassroots level through internal security operations (the right hand effort).
With regards to the MILF, the intent is to seek peace through dialogue and negotiation, redress the legitimate grievances of the Muslim population, and provide governmental resources to develop the depressed Muslim communities. The government, however, emphasises that it will not allow the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Philippines to be compromised. With regards to the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless elements, the government intends to pursue strong anti-terrorist operations and law enforcement action without let up.
The national government, through its various departments, adopts a total, integrated and collaborative approach to address insurgency and its root causes. This holistic approach calls for concerned agencies to implement multi-pronged programs of action (See Appendix 1). The plan is a further refinement and expansion of the largely successful counter-insurgency campaign plan code named ‘Lambat Bitag’ launched by the military against the LCM in the mid-nineteen eighties.
Today, while the other threats (posed by the LCM, MNLF and MILF) have waned somewhat, the new terrorist threat from the Abu Sayaff Group appears to be challenging the resolve and capacity of the government and its security forces to maintain security and peace and order in the Republic. While prospects for peace have improved with the government’s "peace initiatives" with the various rebel groups, the ASG is not a party to this peace initiative of the government.
MINDANAO AND BASILAN
Mindanao is the third major island group of the Philippines from North to South (See Figure 2). It is considered the Southern backdoor to the country because of its proximity to the Philippines’ Southern neighbours. Of special interest are Indonesia, the largest and most populous Muslim State and Malaysia. All three are original members of ASEAN.
Mindanao is well known nationally as the "Land of Promise". It holds the brightest prospects for agri-industrial development. Mindanao has an area of about 58,825 square kilometers. It is politically divided into six regions (including the separate Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Region), 23 provinces and 12-chartered cities. It has a population of about 20 million, about 25 per cent of whom are Muslims. Its economy is predominantly agricultural and its industries are in the pioneering stages. Its exports, in the past, consisted of timber, coconut and other raw materials, and in more recent times, aquatic and agricultural fresh produce, including pineapples, bananas and asparagus. The incidence of poverty and illiteracy in Mindanao is higher, and life expectancy is shorter than the national average. Land disputes are a festering problem. The island thus projects contrasting images of bounty and want, of war and peace, of rapid development and widespread impoverishment.
Mindanao and Basilan
Basilan is an island province in Western Mindanao. It has a population of about 330,000 as of the year 2000, with predominance of Muslims. The biggest ethnic groups are Yakans. Christians comprise around 35 per cent of the total population. The province is composed of six municipalities and a chartered city. All of the municipalities are part of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. Both the Governor of the province, and its lone representative to Congress, are Muslims. The province has a land area of about 13,272 square kilometres, of which 10,278 square kilometres are alienable and disposable. The main source of livelihood is agriculture and fishing. Productivity is rather low and Illiteracy levels are high. Unemployment and underemployment are also high. The incidence of poverty is higher than the national average and economic development is slow.
Security and Peace and Order in Mindanao
As mentioned earlier, the security, peace and order problems of the Philippines in Mindanao revolve around the Muslim secessionists and separatist movements led by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) since the early 1970s, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) since the late 1980s, and the more radical Abu Sayaff Group in the last decade.
The MNLF under Chairman Nur Misuari was the first to move for the independence of 13 provinces and several cities from the Republic in 1973. It fought a war of attrition with security forces of the government, then under the Martial Law regime of President Ferdinand Marcos. In 1976, it entered into the ‘Tripoli Agreement’ with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), and in 1996 entered anew into a peace agreement with the GRP under the auspices of the Organisation of Islamic States.
The MILF, under Chairman Hashim Salamat, was originally a part of the MNLF. In 1987, it broke off from the MNLF after the latter entered into the Tripoli Agreement with the GRP. It has, since then, been waging a war of attrition against the government, although at a reduced scale and geography (in Central Mindanao). It peaked in strength in 1998 and after an ‘all out war’ and a call for Jihad against the government under President Estrada, has a current strength of 13,500, with 11,000 high-powered firearms. It is now talking peace with the government under President Gloria Arroyo. Its forces have reciprocated the government’s unilateral declaration of suspension of offensive military operation (SOMO) while negotiating panels are talking peace.
ASG – A CONTEMPORARY TERRORIST GROUP
The ASG, using contemporary terrorist tactics, has caught the attention and ire, not only of the Philippine government, but also of the whole world. In a little over a decade, the ASG has not only succeeded in remaining in existence but has also grown to become a national security threat to the Philippines, and a menace to civil society as a whole (See Tables 1-4). It has managed this feat despite three ‘all out war’ campaigns launched against its relatively small and geographically limited location in the country, i.e. the islands of Basilan and Sulu. It has survived despite the death of two of its top leaders and a good number of followers. Its ranks have not decreased despite losses, but have, on the contrary, increased. Its threat has not been confined to the Basilan and Sulu islands alone, but has now spread to other island groups in Mindanao and reverberates even in major urban centres of the country such as Manila and Cebu.
ASG TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
OFASG TERRORIST ACTIVITIES
*N.B. As of June 30, 2001
The ASG, designated as one of 29 foreign terrorist organisations by the US government, conducted operations outside the Southern Philippines for the first time when it abducted 21 persons – including 10 foreign tourists – from the Malaysian resort island of Sipadan in April 2000. In a series of subsequent, separate incidents, the ASG abducted a foreign journalist, three Malaysians, and one US citizen in Southern Philippines. The group eventually released most of their hostages after ransoms were allegedly paid totalling as much as US $25 million. The ransom was paid by third parties, as it is the policy of the RP not to pay any ransom for hostages. This policy does not, however, prohibit others from negotiating and paying ransom for the release of hostages.
The ASG is the smallest and the most radical of the Islamic separatist groups operating in the Southern Philippines. It’s stated objective, when it was founded in the mid-1980s, was the establishment of a separate Bangsamoro homeland. Some of its leaders and members have studied or worked in the Middle East and have developed ties with Mujahideen fighters, and have trained and fought in Afghanistan against the Russians. Their main preoccupation is to engage in bombings, assassinations, kidnapping and extortion, allegedly to promote ‘pure Islam’ (See Appendix 2). The group is unusually ruthless with Christians who get in their way.
The ASG, indeed, has all the characteristics of a modern-day international terrorist organisation, constantly changing in ways that make it very dangerous and difficult to counter. Consider the following:
This changing nature of the ASG threat raises the stakes in setting the Philippine government’s policies and practices on counter-terrorism in the right direction as soon as possible.
DIFFICULTIES IN DEALING WITH THE ASG.
There are difficulties in dealing a deadly and final blow to the ASG, in order to eliminate this growing menace. This is despite the government’s more than fifty years of experience in dealing with banditry, insurgencies and rebellion throughout the archipelago.
Among them, the principal obstacles to resolution of the ASG problem are:
Conclusions and Prognosis:
From the foregoing presentation and discussions the following conclusions may be drawn:
Unless the foregoing are sufficiently addressed by the government, the ASG, and others that may be born after it, will persist and pose a greater menace not only in their place or region of birth, but throughout the country and in other countries as well.
Finally, the problem of the Philippine government involving the ASG may be viewed as a microcosm of the problems that the US and its allies are confronting with Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda terrorist network. In many respects, it highlights the problem of the phenomena of the emergence of contemporary terrorist organisations that civil societies of the world face today.
STRATEGIC PRECEPTS OF THE
NATIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PLAN
I. Strategy of Total Approach
B. The security component shall deter or directly address violent conflict. This component includes the following:
C. The political component seeks to tap the full co-operation of local government units and civil society to promote good governance and local peace initiatives. This component includes the following:
D. The socio-cultural-economic component shall focus attention on the ways and means to eradicate/ alleviate poverty. Under this component, government shall undertake the following:
E. Eradicating insurgency is like eliminating cogon grass in one’s cropland. Cutting the grass or burning it may clear the fields for a while, but with the first drop of rain, the weeds will be back, vigorously choking our crop. The best way to get rid of the cogon is to dig out its roots, although this will entail much back breaking work. In like manner, bullets alone cannot solve the problem of insurgency. It cannot be solved by glorious victories on the battlefield, nor by merely killing or capturing dissident leaders and their followers.
F. The problem of insurgency necessitates a holistic approach. What is needed is a thorough examination and determination of the root causes of insurgency, followed by sincere efforts by the administration to institute fundamental reforms to eliminate the root causes. Only then can we finally put an end to insurgency in our country. The taproot of insurgency is the maldistribution of the fruits of the land. From this taproot emanates major lateral roots. Among them are the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few, plutocracy and mass poverty. From these major lateral roots stem a series of other lateral roots, such as ignorance, disease, criminality, drugs, graft and corruption, political patronage, poor delivery of basic services, cronyism, double standard of justice, poor quality education for the masses, exclusion of Muslims and other indigenous cultural communities from the socio-cultural-economic mainstream, marginalization, land disputes, etc., etc. Special Task Groups consisting of a combination of line departments and agencies shall be organized to address each of these roots of insurgency; from the taproot down to the minor lateral roots. This is the Strategy of Total Approach.
II. War of Rapid Conclusion versus Protracted War
A. The CPP/NPA general strategy for the war as a whole is "protracted war". This enemy strategy envisions that the longer the war is allowed to drag on, the stronger will the enemy become and the more difficult it will be for the Philippine government to strategically defeat the enemy. As against the enemy strategy of "protracted war" the general strategy must be "war of rapid conclusion", meaning that the National Campaign Plan must be geared towards the attainment of strategic victory over the CPP/NPA in the shortest time possible (4-5 years).
B. Strategic victory here means the dismantling of most of the prioritized guerrilla fronts targeted in the course of the general offensive that will be launched and pursued relentlessly in the next 4-5 years. This does not mean total victory or the end of communist insurgency, but victory that will change the war situation as a whole.
C. Once strategic victory is attained, follow-up operations coupled with a holistic approach by government to address the root causes of insurgency can bring final and total victory.
III. Clear, Hold, Consolidate, and Develop
a. The "Clearing" phase involves the clearing of the enemy political infrastructure in the affected barangays and the destruction of the main enemy force in the target priority fronts. It should be emphasized that "clearing" here does not mean the traditional "search and destroy" or sweeping operations which are ineffective in dismantling the enemy organs of political power in the barangays as well as decisively defeating the main enemy force in targeted fronts. The "clearing" phase involves the "gradual constriction" of the guerrilla front by mobile battalions of a task unit applying the special operations team (SOT) concept, or its modified version, in clearing the ‘affected" barangays one after another by dismantling the enemy political apparatus.
b. This is coupled with a conscious effort to seek a decisive engagement at every opportune moment. Organizing the "affected" barangays in reverse to dismantle a guerrilla front and seeking a decisive engagement basically involve the application of the TRIAD Concept of intelligence, Civil Military Operations and Combat Operations. This phase shall be the prime responsibility of the AFP manoeuvre forces.
c. During the clearing phase, the Department of Justice shall initiate the legal offensive while the Philippine Information Agency shall launch its media offensive in support of the military offensive directed at the prioritized guerilla fronts.
a. The "holding" phase consists of the re-establishment of government control and authority in the recovered areas. This will fall under the prime responsibility of the DILG supported by DOJ and the AFP. This phase also involves counter-organization, i.e., the organization of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs) and Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) or Bantay Bayan in barangays that have been de-influenced or cleared from enemy control.
b. The CAFGUs and CVOs/Bantay Bayan shall augment the Philippine National Police (PNP) for territorial defense in order to free the AFP maneuver forces to go on all-out offensive. The CVOs shall help mobilize the people to support the government and the AFF against the insurgents. This is in line with the government’s "Integrated Territorial Defense System" in countering insurgency which involves the interplay of three vital and interlocking components, namely: the military mobile forces (AFP brigades, battalions, and special operations forces); the territorial forces (PNP and CAFGU); and the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (Bantay Bayan).
c. Another important element of counter-organization is the setting-up of people’s organizations and cooperatives in the cleared barangays. The Cooperative Development Authority and the National Anti-Poverty Commission initiates action at this stage.
a. The "consolidation" phase usually overlaps with the holding phase. Government control and authority in the barangay level is strengthened and consolidated. Undesirable or pro-dissident local officials are weeded out; and it is here where the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will again come in. Counter-organizations are further expanded and consolidated in this phase, such as the expansion of people’s organizations or cooperatives for various livelihood projects and community-based reforestation (when appropriate). This will be the job of the DENR, CDA and NAPC.
b. The CAFGU and CVO may be good starting points for counter-organization by organizing them into people's organizations / cooperatives, with livelihood and community-based reforestation components. The active participation of PA, PIA, NIA, TESDA, DPWH, DSWD, DOJ, DECS, DAR, and DOH will be vital in this phase.
c. All these activities must be orchestrated by the local government executives (Governors and Mayors) in the locality. Those who remain uncooperative or whose sympathies remain with the side of the rebels should be given strong sanctions by the DILG. The role of the military here should he as active catalysts, organizers and co-ordinators.
d. The role of the AFP in the "consolidation phase" will primarily be a supporting role. The civil sector of government shall play a primary role in this third phase.
a. The final phase is "development". The people’s organizations and co-operatives organized in the "consolidation" phase can serve as conduits for the government’s anti-poverty program and the implementation of NAPC’s Social Reform Agenda, whose aim is to reach and help the poorest of the poor in our society.
b. The People’s Organizations (POs) and Cooperatives can serve as nuclei for rural economic development and environmental protection if the various line agencies like the DENR, DA, DAR, DTI, DECS, DSWD, TESDA, DPWH, DOH, DOST, NIA, NAPC, and the AFP can work together under the baton of the Chief Executive Officer of the province or municipality.
c. There is a need for a body to bring all of these line agencies together under one roof to be headed by the local chief executive. This super body is the Cabinet Oversight Committee headed by Executive Secretary at the national level; Regional Oversight Committees at the regional level headed by the regional directors of DILG; and the Provincial and Municipal Oversight Committees headed by the Governors and Mayor across the land.
d. The AFP, again, plays a supporting role in this final phase of the campaign. The DILG shall play the lead role in the development phase, spearheaded by the governors and mayors in the locality.
IV. Prioritization of Target Guerrilla Fronts
A. At the moment, there are 70 guerrilla fronts of the CPP/NPA in the country. To avoid dissipation of forces, the AFP shall mass its forces in the guerrilla fronts categorized as very active and advanced, while conducting limited offensive operations in less active guerrilla fronts.
B. Thirteen (13) out of the seventy (70) guerrilla fronts will be selected by a competent body and these guerilla fronts, designated as convergence zones, will receive priority in resources and manpower. These 13 guerrilla fronts shall form part of the designated Convergence Zones.
C. Thirteen (13) guerrilla fronts shall be dismantled in the first two years of the campaign; twenty (20) on the third year; another twenty on the fourth year; and the remaining guerrilla fronts will be mopped up on the final year of the campaign.
V. Concept of One-on-One
Deployment of forces should be on a one-on-one basis: one task unit under one commander against one of the prioritized guerrilla fronts. This is to ensure unity of command. Offensive campaigns of "gradual constriction" will also be conducted in non-priority guerrilla fronts, but on a limited scale using economy of force.
VI. Simultaneous Campaign Offensives Co-ordinated Nationwide
To win strategic victory at the soonest possible time or to fight a "war of rapid conclusion", the Philippine government should seize the strategic initiative by launching a nationally coordinated, simultaneous and sustained campaign offensives against the LCM guerrilla fronts, with the main effort directed at the fronts categorized as "very active" and "advanced" (totaling 13 guerrilla fronts as of 1 Sept 1999). Limited offensives shall be conducted on less advanced fronts; while holding action is conducted on MILF areas to prevent further expansion.
VII. Sustained/Protracted Campaigns
The various campaigns to be launched against the selected guerrilla fronts should continue without let-up until each targeted guerrilla front is dismantled and the main enemy force in the given front is decisively defeated. What the CPP/NPA fears most is a drawn-out protracted campaign because their resources and logistics cannot support campaigns of long duration. We should give to the enemy what he does not want or tries to avoid. We should force the enemy to fight on our own terms. We should not terminate a campaign directed against a priority front until such time that the enemy political infrastructure in the affected barangays are dismantled, and the main enemy force in the targeted front is decisively defeated.
VIII. Campaign Strategy of "Gradual Constriction"
A. For each campaign of a task unit against a guerrilla front, the campaign strategy is "gradual constriction". This involves the gradual constriction of the target guerrilla front by mobile battalions (with special operation team (SOT) capability) clearing the affected barangays one after another.
B. This is done by the dismantling of the CPP/NPA barangay political infrastructure (through unearthing and public exposure and legal offensive), the setting up of counter-organizations (i.e., Bantay Bayan, CAFGU, people’s organizations, cooperatives, ecology or refo teams, etc.), the establishment of clandestine barangay intelligence nets (BINs), and the re-establishment of government control in the barangay.
C. As the LCM political apparatus in the affected barangay fall one by one, the "pond" where the enemy swims will get narrower and narrower. These activities of the SOT of dismantling the enemy political infrastructure are coupled with a conscious effort to pinpoint the enemy main force in the given front and by concentration of forces and encircling/area ambush tactics, deal the enemy a decisive blow.
IX. Why "Gradual Constriction"?
A. Gradual Constriction Forces the Enemy into a Catch-22 Situation.
1. As more and more barangays are organized in reverse, the enemy guerrilla front in effect is gradually constricted, until such time that the guerrillas will be left with very little room for maneuver.
2. The guerrilla units caught in the tightening ring of encirclement will be forced into a serious dilemma. If they attempt to exfiltrate, they will end up in the barangays where clandestine BINs have been established, and their whereabouts will easily be exposed. If they try to shift their forces to an adjacent guerrilla front, it will make it easy for us to dismantle the front that they leave behind, making it very difficult for them to ever return to their original base.
3. Leaving their front will also adversely affect their mass base, giving the impression that they are abandoning their supporters and running away when things get rough. The enemy may try to hide their forces in unpopulated jungles or forests, but this will also fail. They may do this for campaigns of short duration, such as "search and destroy" operations. But now, the campaigns of "gradual constriction" are protracted and sustained. Coupled with tight resource control along approaches to suspected enemy jungle lairs, rebels caught in the tightening ring will soon run out of sustenance.
4. The insurgents’ last resort is to concentrate their forces in the hope of breaking the AFP campaign offensive by launching their own counter-offensive. This is exactly what we want them to do, for then we can concentrate our own forces and deal the enemy a decisive blow. We can see here how the strategy of "gradual constriction" limits the enemy's options. In chess, "a narrowing range of options signals a beleaguered position". The same is true in guerrilla war.
B. Gradual Constriction is an Effective Counter to the "16-Character Formula".
1. "When the enemy advances, we retreat..." If the rebel forces now conduct a strategic retreat towards the central district of the front in order to concentrate their forces in prepared ambush positions, they will be left waiting in their "killing zones" with no target appearing. Unlike in "search and destroy", AFP forces conducting gradual constriction do not rush head-on in search of the insurgents, but move clandestinely and gradually, organizing barangays step by step.
2. "When the enemy camps, we harass..." But now there will be no open target for harassment. Movement will be done mostly under cover of darkness. Harboring will be in clandestine places or mixed with the civilian populace. Getting close to the civilian populace also discourages harassment because it will endanger what the enemy considers as their mass base.
3. "When the enemy tires, we attack..." But this time, there will be no tired enemy to attack, unlike in "search and destroy" for the operating troops will be busy organizing in the outer barangays instead of rushing foolishly into the insurgents prepared "killing zones" in the central section.
4. "When the enemy withdraws, we pursue..." Not this time. The task unit will not withdraw or terminate the campaign until such time that the insurgent guerrilla front is totally dismantled and the main enemy rebel force in the given front is decisively defeated.
C. Gradual Constriction is a Counter to the Enemy Campaign Strategy of Mobile Warfare.
The gradual constriction of the guerrilla front progressively limits the insurgents’ room for maneuver, rendering his forces less and less mobile. Previously, the insurgents could easily outmaneuver government forces ladened with heavy weapons and equipment, and burdened with long trains of rear service support organizations. Now, they will be faced with light units who can be just as agile in rough terrain; who can match their organizing skills; who can master the terrain just as well; and who can now equal, if not surpass, the insurgents’ advantage in combat intelligence.
D. Gradual Constriction is a counter to the enemy strategy of "concentrating a superior force to destroy the enemy forces one by one".
This strategy is effective against troops engaged in "search and destroy", as well as against fixed targets such as isolated detachments. But in gradual constriction, the entire unit is in constant movement with no fixed and isolated detachments. The mobile operating units offer no fixed target. They are clandestine. They are mutually supporting. And they possess radio communications, allowing them to concentrate forces rapidly and turn this guerrilla strategy against the insurgents themselves.
E. Gradual Constriction is the counter to the enemy strategy of "campaigns and battles of quick decision".
1. What the rebel forces fear most is a protracted campaign because it will exhaust their resources and they simply do not have the logistics to sustain a protracted campaign. We should give them what they fear and hate.
2. Gradual constriction requires organizing the barangays in reverse which requires time, hence the protracted nature of the campaign. If before, "search and destroy" campaigns lasted for only a couple of days, now the new approach calls for sustained and protracted campaigns. Such campaigns will continue without let-up until the campaign objective is attained, namely: the complete dismantling of the targeted front and the destruction of the main enemy force in that given front.
X. The TRIAD Concept (INTEL, CMO, & CBT OPNS)
Dismantling a guerrilla front by dismantling the CPP/NPA political infrastructure in the affected barangays and seeking a decisive engagement against the main enemy force in the given front basically involve the application of the "triad concept" of Intelligence, Civil Military Operations, and Combat Operations.
The key to victory in battle is superior combat intelligence. One of the advantages of the communist insurgents is the superior combat intelligence provided by their organized mass base. If we are to defeat the enemy, we must beat them at their own game.
· First, we must conduct our own social investigation (SI) of each target barangay to be cleared.
· Second, we must have our own "eyes and ears" at the barangay level by setting a clandestine Barangay Intelligence Net (BIN) in each "affected" barangay cleared through SOT or MSOT activities. This will supplement the mobile recondo teams of the battalions constantly monitoring enemy movements and locations.
· Lastly, we must establish pre-selected "killing zones" (preselection of battle sites or ambush positions) in selected barangays that will serve to trap the main enemy force.
B. CIVIL MILITARY OPERATIONS (CMO)
1. CMO as applied by tactical units in campaigns of gradual constriction is tactical CMO, that is, CMO for the purpose of dismantling the enemy political structure in the barangay; setting up our own counter-organizations (CAFGUS, barangay tanods, peoples’ organization and cooperatives), and serving as catalysts or facilitators in rural development.
2. Effective CMO depend a lot on the conduct of a thorough social investigation (SI). Armed with information on the personalities manning the CPP/NPA organs of political power in the barangay, the modified SOT team leader and his CMO specialist can dismantle the enemy structure. One quick way is to call a general meeting in the barangay and publicly expose the target personalities involved. The inclusion of rebel returnees and local government officials in general meetings of this kind have also been found to be effective.
3. The SOT may also seek out the people in the SI list and have a heart-to-heart talk with them. The standing offer of amnesty to rebels may also be invoked. Countless means are available to dismantle the enemy political infrastructure. It depends only on one’s own imagination and initiative.
C. COMBAT OPERATIONS
1. The basic campaign strategy is "gradual constriction". The enemy guerrilla front is gradually constricted by organizing the affected barangays "in reverse", or from the outskirts moving towards the central district employing battalions with SOT capabilities.
2. In the deployment of forces for gradual constriction, the unit commander must be flexible in dispersion and concentration of forces. The basic guideline in this regard is to employ dispersion in organizing the barangays in reverse; and employ concentration in seeking a decisive engagement.
3. Whenever the main enemy force is located, the task unit commander concentrates the maximum number of forces that he can muster to effect an area ambush on the enemy position. However, this approach is hasty and lack the necessary preparation needed for a decisive engagement. The better approach is to lay a deliberate trap for the enemy main force by choosing a barangay frequented by the enemy, pre-select ambush positions that will seal off exit routes, pre-position BIN (or RECONDO) with radios or cell phones, and prepare the strike forces (with guides) that will execute the trap. This is a departure from the usual "search and destroy", because now we are the ones conducting the ambush instead of falling victims of ambush.
XI. Strict Observance of Human Rights.
A. Human rights shall be strictly observed in the conduct of the general offensive. Any form of human rights violations by government troopers shall not be tolerated. Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency is a fight for the minds and hearts of the people. He who wins the masses will ultimately win the war.
B. Tolerating human rights violations is a sure way of alienating the people and driving them to swell the ranks of the rebels. On the other hand, respect, courtesy, non-arrogance, and discipline shown by soldiers to civilians are the best weapons for winning the people to our side.
XII. Pursuit of a Multi-Track Peace Process
A. As we launch a general offensive against the CPP/NPA on a nationwide scale, it should be made known through the mass media that the door is wide open for those in the rebel ranks who wants to return to the folds of the law and live in peace. While the AFP is ready and capable to launch an offensive and bring to rapid conclusion the insurgency war, the government must continue to pursue a multi-track peace process. The insurgencies that plague the nation cannot be addressed through military means alone. There must be a parallel effort to build peace, which include processes of dialogue, negotiation, healing and reconciliation.
B. The government’s policy of reconciliation should continue to remain in effect. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, give an encircled enemy a way out so he will not fight like a cornered cat. This seemingly "soft" policy will go a long way in disintegrating the rank and file of the enemy.
C. This two-pronged effort approach - a strong military offensive side by side with a multi-track peace effort - will convey to the general public as well as to the rebel groups the image of a government resolutely determined to bring the insurgencies to an end by exhausting all means. Thus we do not only win the war, but we also win the peace and future of the nation.
D. The government’s multi-track peace process include the following:
1. Implementation of social, economic and political reforms to address the root causes of insurgency.
2. Citizen’s participation in peace-building, including active involvement in local-level peace and development initiatives.
3. Peaceful negotiations with rebel groups.
4. Reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation of former rebels, including the granting of amnesty.
5. Programs for communities/civilians affected by armed conflict.
6. Promoting and nurturing a nationwide culture of peace, through peace education and media advocacy.
TERRORIST ACTIVITIES OF THE
ABU SAYYAF GROUP (ASG)