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Activists slam choice of military chief

New head vows to ramp up anti-insurgency drive

  • ucanews.com reporter, Manila
  • Philippines
  • January 16, 2013
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Human rights groups condemned the appointment of a man they accuse of being the "brains" behind a government anti-insurgency program as the new armed forces chief.

Lt Gen Emmanuel Bautista was named as the new military chief of staff on Tuesday. Rights group Karapatan said on Wednesday that the appointment "signals the escalation of human rights violations” under the administration of President Benigno Aquino.

The group accuses Bautista of being the mastermind behind "Oplan Bayanihan" or Operation Plan Cooperation, a campaign to end four decades of communist insurgency in the country.

Karapatan alleges the campaign has resulted in 137 extrajudicial killings and 154 attempted killings.

The security plan is the military’s blueprint to "winning the peace" against communist insurgents. President Aquino announced the plan in December 2010 and the military implemented it in January 2011.

Karapatan secretary-general, Cristina Palabay, said Oplan Bayanihan, despite having "people-centered" and "respect for human rights" catchphrases, is no different from previous anti-insurgency programs.

Bautista, meanwhile, has said he will increase the intensity of the military campaign, vowing to render the communists inconsequential.

"I’m now in a better position to influence the implementation of Bayanihan … because the chief of staff is an operational commander,” he told ucanews.com on Wednesday.

"Our goal is for the [communist rebels] to be irrelevant, for the armed struggle to end, and to render the armed struggle irrelevant,” Bautista added.

Asked if he hopes to achieve his goals before the end of his term in July 2014, Bautista said: “By the end of my term, [the rebels] will substantially decrease in strength. I cannot say zero. It can never approach zero.”

Latest military estimates say there are around 4,000 communist fighters, down from a peak of more than 20,000 in the 1980s.

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