Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan a waste of people’s money

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should immediately stop the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan. The Aquino government is wasting the nation’s coffers in pursuing Oplan Bayanihan that has resulted in numerous human rights violations and continuing impunity.”
Thus said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, in reaction to the statement of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on the failure of the counter-insurgency program’s targets. The Aquino administration announced in May 2013 that it has allocated $1.8 billion, or roughly P73 billion, for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.
“With Oplan Bayanihan, people’s taxes are used to kill the likes of Cristina Jose, instead of helping victims like her to rise from the onslaught of typhoons or displacement from their lands and livelihood  because of transnational mining corporations and logging,” Palabay said.  Jose, leader of the typhoon victims’ organization Barug Katawhan (People, stand up!) in Mindanao, was killed in March this year, after receiving threats from the military for leading people’s actions in the area.
Karapatan said the AFP’s so-called ‘peace and development’ projects in disaster-stricken areas as in the case of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental only resulted to threats, harassment and intimidation, and even extrajudicial killing like what happened to Jose.
“The Aquino government’s ‘peace and development’ concept that the AFP is working at is ‘peace and development’ for foreign and local big business interests—the transnational mining corporations and agri-business plantations; the interests of the landlords like the Aquinos and the interests of powerful politicians,” Palabay added.
The killing of Cristina Jose, Karapatan stressed, is an example of the government’s attitude on the poor  people who were displaced by logging and mining companies and tagged by the government as ‘enemies’ for opposing big business interests. Jose exemplifies the “poor who are vulnerable to disasters because of environmental degradation that was a result of the plunder of the country’s resources by big business; those who were victims of government discrimination and neglect, bureaucratic red tape, inefficiency and corruption in providing assistance to victims of calamities and disasters, using the communist bogey as an excuse. Jose represents the victims of government’s human rights violations, those who were killed, disappeared, arrested and tortured for asserting their rights.”
“Cristina Jose is one of the 142 victims of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino regime. The members of her community are among the more than 31,000 victims of threat, harassment and intimidation by the military,” said Palabay.  The terror of Oplan Bayanihan is manifested not only in extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances but also in the cases of forced evacuation (with more than 30,000 victims), indiscriminate firing (with more than 7,000 victims),  and the use of schools, medical, religious and other public places for military purpose (with more than 27,000 victims).
“Gen. Bautista’s statement that they will ‘intensify efforts in second semester to sustain the campaign to win peace for people’ is an alarm bell for the people to brace themselves for more human rights violations. If the Aquino government is truly pursuing peace, it should go back to the negotiating table with the NDFP and MILF, sincerely tackle the roots of unpeace and work for its resolution,” ended Palabay.

On July 19-21, more than 200 peace advocates and human rights defenders from all over the world are attending the International Conference for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines. The said gathering will look into the Aquino government’s human rights record and peace, in the context of global and national crises, the US’s Asian pivot and the implementation of Oplan Bayanihan. ###