by Leon Castro
The US-Duterte regime may be the most militarized bureaucracy in the country’s history.
Among all the presidents since the 1986 ouster of the Marcos dictatorship, Rodrigo Duterte has appointed the most number of former soldiers and police officers to top and key positions in his government — a move in line with its unraveling character as a repressive and tyrannical regime. Not even former chief martial law implementer and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Fidel Ramos had as many ex-military and police officers at any given time in his six-year term as president.
Duterte initially tried to mask his militarist nature by bandying his past links with the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) in his youth and with the New People’s Army (NPA)in Davao City and elsewhere in Mindanao when he was mayor. In his first year as president, however, he populated his regime with ex-AFP and Philippine National Police brass, many of whom had been assigned in Davao and served during his murderous reign in that southern city.
As mayor Duterte, the police, the military and the notorious paramilitary group Alsa Masa were jointly accused by human rights groups to be responsible for the more than a thousand extrajudicial killings in Davao City. (He was later repeatedly accused of having had a hand in the killing of his erstwhile friend, Alsa Masa leader Juan Porras “Jun” Pala.)
What happened in Davao City then is ominously similar to what is now happening throughout the country, with Duterte’s so-called war on drugs, tagged as Oplan Double Barrel /Tokhang and the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.
To date, Duterte has 60 former military and police officers in powerful and juicy posts across the bureaucracy. And he will appoint current AFP chief Eduardo Año, he has said, as secretary of interior and local government once the latter retires in October. By surrounding himself with proven military and police bloodhounds, Duterte is also protecting himself from other rightist political cliques such as the putschist Magdalo group led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
In less than a year and a half, the US-Duterte regime has completely unraveled as a tyrannical militarist regime. On May 10 he facetiously said he was ready to form a junta with the appointment of retired former AFP chief Gen. Roy Cimatu to replace the maverick Gina Lopez as environment and natural resources secretary.
Duterte’s security cluster appointees showed no qualms in admitting they had deliberately sabotaged the GRP-NDFP formal peace negotiations. Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana, national security adviser Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and the notorious human rights violator, AFP chief Eduardo Año, have been responsible for the current “total-war” policy against the NPA as well as the ongoing militarization of indigenous and peasant communities through Oplan Kapayapaan.
Lorenzana, Esperon and Año directly contravened efforts to advance the peace process with the NDFP by ordering its troops to attack NPA camps and civilian communities during the six-month unilateral ceasefire from August 2016 to February 2017. They also have caused the killing, abduction, and illegal arrest of activists, most notably peasant leaders, and indigenous peoples.
Last January 20, when the NDFP and the GRP were negotiating in Rome on free land distribution to peasants, 39th IBPA troopers attacked a NPA camp in Makilala, North Cotabato that nearly succeeded in derailing the talks pronto.
In a press briefing, NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoili said there appeared to be a deliberate and systematic sabotage of the ongoing formal peace talks in that city. “What is happening is similar to what happened in 2005 to 2006 where many activists were killed, presided by the very same people (Esperon and Año),” Agcaoili said.
Before capitalists in Makati last August 24, Lorenzana admitted it was he who convinced President Duterte to stop peace negotiations with the NDFP. He said he was against any peace process “that is clearly stacked against the government and favorable only to the CPP-NPA-NDF.” The Marcosian martial law relic added that the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement for Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) being discussed by the NDFP and GRP peace panels were “completely unacceptable.”
Lorenzana, Esperon and Año also staged the failed attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon last May 23 in Marawi City. When the operation failed, they persuaded Duterte to declare martial law over the entire Mindanao. Martial law spawned the greatest military and humanitarian disaster in his year-old government, with nearly half-a-million internally displaced persons. Without provocation Lorenzana declared that the NPA was among the targets of the martial law declaration. Along with Esperon and Ano, he plotted the cancellation of the scheduled fifth round of the NDFP-GRP talks by pressuring the GRP negotiators to insist that the CPP recall its defensive order to step up military offensives against the rampaging AFP troops.
Human rights violators
Other recent Duterte appointments were equally notorious human rights violators as AFP officers.
New national irrigation administrator Ricardo Visaya was the main implementer, as AFP chief, of the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan that resulted in the extrajudicial killing of many peasants and indigenous peoples. He was army ground commander during the November 2004 Hacienda Luisita Massacre in Tarlac, likewise the commander of troops in Central Luzon and Metro Manila involved in rights violations during Arroyo’s reign of terror under the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya. Among his known victims in Central Luzon were Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, two farmers who were abducted and tortured. In Metro Manila, Visaya’s stint was marked by military encampments in urban poor communities in 2006-2007, in time for the 2007 elections.
Former AFP chief Emmanuel Bautista, Duterte’s current executive director on security, justice and peace cluster, was the self-proclaimed brains behind the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan. Human rights group Karapatan recorded 229 victims of extrajudicial killings, 26 enforced disappearances, 700 illegally arrested and detained, and over 46,000 victims of forced evacuations under the insidious counterinsurgency plan.
Presumptive interior and local government secretary and current AFP chief Año was accused of masterminding the abduction and disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos on April 28, 2007. Año was also said to be responsible for the killing spree against the Lumad and the illegal arrest and filing of trumped-up charges against activists, among other atrocities, when he was the commanding officer of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, Cimatu, current environment and natural resources secretary, headed the AFP Southern Command when civilians who came to be known as the “Basilan 72” were arrested based on wrongful accusations that they were Abu Sayyaf members. During his brief stint as AFP chief (May to September 2002), Cimatu led the implementation of the bloody counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya. He was also accused of accumulating ill-gotten wealth from the conversion of military funds during the Gloria Arroyo regime, for which the Department of Justice filed plunder cases against him and other high-ranking AFP officials in 2011. The case, though later dismissed, demonstrated how rampant was corruption within the military, implicating no less than its top officers.
Many other former AFP and PNP officers who are now high-ranking officials of the Duterte government faced complaints of human rights violations during their military and police careers.
Juicy civilian positions
A February 24 to March 6, 2011 Pulse Asia survey showed that 48.9 percent of Filipinos believed that the military was the most corrupt government agency in the country. The survey was conducted at the height of the congressional hearings on the military’s “pasalubong” and “pabaon” controversy involving the former AFP comptroller, retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, and the alleged corruption involving former high-ranking military officials, per the testimonies of former AFP budget officer, retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, and former state auditor Heidi Mendoza.
In November that year, Newsbreak journalists Glenda Gloria, Aries Rufo, and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza published the book The Enemy Within that narrated massive corruption in the military, such as the fraudulent conversion of its budget to allow for tens of millions of pesos to be given as gifts to both incoming (pasalubong) and outgoing top commanders (pabaon). AFP corruption is still believed to be rampant from top to bottom to this day. Duterte’s appointment of an inordinate number of ex-military officers to juicy directorships and trusteeships in Government-Owned and Controlled-Corporations (GOCCs) can only be likened to letting insatiable foxes guard the chicken coop.
Apologists claim former military and police officers have the competencies to be managers and policy directors of the government’s money-making agencies. Thus, Duterte named former coup plotter Nicanor Faeldon to the Bureau of Customs commissioner, and other ex-military officers as directors and trustees of the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC), PNOC-Exploration Corp., Government Service Insurance System, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), Phillippine Sugar Corp. and others. However, there is no shortage of qualified civilian experts who can be appointed to these clearly civilian offices.
|Philippine National Railways
|Miguel dela Cruz Abaya
|Development Bank of the Philippines
|Department of National Defense (DND)
|Clark Development Corp. (CDC)
|National Intelligence Coordination Agency
|Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
|National Security Council (NSC)
|Department of Environment and Natural Resources
|Office of the Executive Director on Security, Justice and Peace Cluster
|National Irrigation Administration
|National Food Authority
|Bureau of Customs
|Metropolitan Manila Development Authority
|Eduardo “Red” Kapunan
|ambassador to Myanmar
|officer in charge and undersecretary for peace and order
|Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)
|Nestor Quinsay Jr.
|Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs
|deputy director general
|Eduardo del Rosario
|undersecretary for civil, veterans and retiree affairs
|Raymundo Elefante —
|undersecretary for finance and materiel
|undersecretary for defense operations
|Administrator and executive director, respectively
|Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council
|Marciano Paynor Jr.
|Office of the President (OP)
|Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO)
|Rodolfo Demosthenes Santillan
|deputy administrator for operations
|government arsenal director
|Anselmo Simeon Pinili
|special envoy on transnational crime
|Philippine Center on Transnational Crime
|assistant secretary for peace and security affairs
|Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
|Land Transportation Office
|Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA)
|deputy director general for administration
|Bureau of Immigration
|Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources
|Jose Jorge Corpuz
|Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)
|Light Rail Transit Authority
|Rodolfo J. Garcia
|Metro Rail Transit 3
|president and CEO
|Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC)
|Government Service Insurance System
|Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA)
|Philippine Sugar Corp.
|John Hay Management Corp. (JHMC)
|North Luzon Railway Corp.
|Michael Mellijor Tulen
|Philippine National Railways
|National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP)
|executive vice president
|Office of the Executive Secretary-AntiTerrorism Council-Program Management Center
|Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP)
|Manuel Antonio Tamayo
|deputy director general
|Eduardo del Rosario
|Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC)
It is no secret the AFP implements US-designed counterinsurgency plans such as Oplan Bantay Laya I and II, Oplan Bayanihan and the current Oplan Kapayapaan. In fact, the 2006 US Quadrennial Defense Review called the AFP its “surrogate army”, a long-term junior partner of the US Armed Forces. Among the major influences in the development of US counterinsurgency strategy were the Philippine-American War of 1901 and the Huk pacification campaign during the 1950s.
US’s counterinsurgency operations in the Philippines are most rabidly implemented by high ranking officers who are trained by the US Armed Forces in its School of the Americas in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They are taught how to wage low-intensity conflicts that aim to drain the waters where the fish swim. This usually means attacking civilian communities perceived to be supportive of the NPA. In turn, this leads to countless human rights violations.
Top AFP generals, many of whom are now posing as civil servants in the US-Duterte regime are experts in the US counterinsurgency “whole-of-nation” concept. The program, a US Army magazine says, is the approach adopted for the AFP’s Internal and Security Plan with the “advice and assistance of the Joint Special Operations Task Force (of the US Armed Forces).”
“Although authored by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the plan encompasses a whole-of-nation approach, with a focus on coordinating all efforts under the broad direction of a national internal-security strategy,” explains the article, written by a Col. Fran Beaudette of the Special Warfare Magazine published in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Based on assessments of who among them are able to carry out US-designed and directed counterinsurgency plans, officers are promoted to generals.
Duterte feigned ignorance when US military presence was revealed immediately after the Marawi crisis broke out last May. In a press conference in Cagayan de Oro last June 11, Duterte acknowledged it was the defense department that decided to seek help from the US armed forces. “I am not aware of that until they arrived. When I declared martial law, I gave the power to the defense department,” he said, gesturing at defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana then standing beside him. He had tapped Lorenzana as martial law administrator shortly after he declared martial law in the entire Mindanao on May 23, 2017.
Despite his rhetorics, it has become clear that Duterte is a US puppet who wreaks havoc on the Filipino people not only through the AFP but also through the former AFP officers in the civilian bureaucracy. “All of them, most of them, nag-schooling sa America. So, talaga, ang siyentimiyento nito, pro-American. Pro-American talaga ang mga sundalo natin. That I cannot deny,” Duterte said. (All of them, most of them, were schooled in America. So, really, their sentiment is pro-American. Our soldiers are pro-American. That I cannot deny.)
Even in their current civilian capacities, these former generals are still known to champion US military interests in the Philippines. Lorenzana, Esperon and Año in fact were instrumental in pushing the servile Congress to vote overwhelmingly to extend martial law in Mindanao by five more months until the end of this year.
The true character of Duterte’s regime is now on open display with human rights violators, putschists, US-trained wardogs, and peace saboteurs teeming in his government.