THE leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is hopeful that it would soon be able to return to its traditional role as protector of the country’s territory and sovereignty by 2016 or after the end of the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said they were hopeful that the government peace panel by then would be able to reach a permanent and peaceful closure of all armed-conflicts, with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well as the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
“We return to our traditional role as military organization which is territorial defense and protection of the country’s sovereignty,” Tutaan said.
The AFP, Tutaan said is committed in supporting the ongoing peace talks with the MILF and the CPP-NPA-NDF.
He noted that the AFP has been embroiled in armed conflict for over four decades now, severely affecting the development of communities and bringing tremendous pain and hardship to the people.
If there’s anyone, he said, who wants peace, it is the AFP because its members were always the first casualties of any event of violence and war.
“If peace is achieved we can all move forward. The people want peace and the AFP, too, wants peace,” Tutaan said.
More resources, he added, would also be rechanneled to important priorities such as the modernization and upgrading of the AFP.
Records show that the AFP is one of the smallest armed forces in Southeast Asia in terms of population density and has the lowest defense spending based on gross domestic product (GDP).
The AFP modernization has been delayed for years even with the signing into law in 1995 of Republic Act (RA) 7898 or the AFP Modernization Program that allotted P331 billion to develop the naval, air and ground defense capability of the military.
Of the P331 billion, P164 billion was supposed to be provided by congressional appropriation or the GAA and the remaining P167 billion would come from different sources, including part of the proceeds that would come from the sale or lease of military camps as provided under the Bases Conversion Act.
RA 7898 provides that within five years, from the time the law was enacted in 1995 to 2000, the amount of P50 billion or P10 billion a year should be allotted to the AFP modernization program, but this was never followed.
It was not until 2002 that the AFP modernization trust fund got its P5.2 billion from the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and thereafter Congress allotted P5 billion yearly, starting in 2005 until the modernization law expired in 2010.
Of the P331 billion that was supposed to be allotted to the AFP modernization program, therefore, only P33 billion plus materialized.
The P33 billion did not go to the external defense objective of the modernization law but was used instead on the capability upgrade program because the lead role on internal security operations was returned to the AFP.
The AFP modernization only moved forward following the signing last December by President Aquino of RA 10349, or the New AFP Modernizaon Act, that allotted P75 billion for the next five years.
Also, the military leadership would be able to focus on the AFP Transformation Roadmap (ATR), which primary purpose is to transform the 125,000-strong organization into a more capable, responsible, reliable and professional force.
He pointed out that the ATR also aims to provide a rational and stable basis for the policies, plans and programs for the AFP even with the frequent changes in leadership.
In essence, he said, the ATR promotes an AFP that focuses on the institution rather than the personalities, considers long-term strategies rather than short-term tactics, and approaches all matters from a system perspective to address interconnected priorities rather than single issues.
He said the program was started in 2010 and “we envision ourselves to be a world-class army that is a source of national pride” by time it ends in 2028.
At present, the AFP is perceived as barely capable of accomplishing its missions given the inadequate force, training and equipment and as such, the organization must address identified capability shortfalls in order to make it mission-capable.
Army spokesman Col. Randolf Cabanbang said that while the military would shift to territorial defense by 2016 as outlined in the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan, it would not completely abandon some local concerns like law enforcement.
But by 2016, he pointed out, the military would only be supportive of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on internal peace and order situation, such as challenges posed by terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
As a matter of national policy, Cabangbang explained that the government does not deal or talk peace with terrorist groups like the ASG.
Cabangbang said that total peace is within reach, adding that the AFP is confident that the government would be able to seal a peace agreement not just with the MILF but also with the CPP-NPA-NDF even as the government’s peace negotiation with the latter has been temporarily put on the back burner.
“But the government is not closing the door with the CPP-NPA-NDF and is exhausting all efforts that both parties would return soon to the negotiating table. We are confident that total peace would be achieved by 2016,” Cabangbang further said. “That is within the timeline of the IPSP Bayanihan.”
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista spearheaded the crafting of the IPSP Bayanihan when he was the AFP deputy chief of staff for operations or J3 in 2010.
Under the IPSP, the desired result is to reduce the capabilities of internal armed threats 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 primary focus of the AFP under the IPSP Bayanihan is “winning the peace and not just defeating the enemy” through two strategic approach—the whole-of-nation approach and people-centered security/human security approach.
Bautista has pointed that the timeframe of Bayanihan is up to 2016 but stressed that by this year there must be substantial accomplishments on its targets.