6.24.2009

PIA News Service - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

SPECIAL REPORT:

AFP kisses the body count syndrome goodbye

MANILA, June 24 (PNA Feature) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is shifting its paradigm in measuring victory against enemies of the state – from combat scores through the body-count syndrome to winning the hearts and minds of those fighting the government through civil military operations (CMO). 

Brig. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, commanding general of the AFP-Civil Relations Service (CRS), noted that before -- and even until now for some – the fundamental measure of progress in any warfare is body count. The appeal is simply on killing more enemies. 

“While enemy death tolls remain a feature of warfare, today, however, the new Armed Forces of the Philippines is determined to defunct the body-count syndrome. The new parameter of measuring military success is lesser fighting and more surrendering enemies of the state,” said Pangilinan.

”The unconventional warfare of defeating insurgency with the least of fighting or, if achievable, without firing a single shot, are being pursued vigorously under the leadership of AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado,” Pangilinan also said.

At present, military operating units continue to adhere to the body-count syndrome which gauge operational success through how many enemies killed during combat missions. In this light, military spokespersons always give emphasis to number of kills more than the surrenderees. 

For example, in Mindanao regions where both communist and lawless secessionist rebels, from time to time, clash with government forces, military and police authorities sometimes even point to signal intelligence or any other form of intelligence reports in estimating the number of slain enemies, without actual body count, if only to highlight combat score. 

Only recently, military authorities in Central Mindanao region claimed that more than 90 lawless members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), under Ameril Umbra Kato, have been killed during weeks of intensified ground and air strike in Guindulungan town, Maguindanao province. Of the number, more or less, 50 bodies were reportedly recovered. 

Aside from the lawless MILF group, the military is also facing atrocities coming from the communist New People’s Army (NPA) all over the country and the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group in southern Philippines. Intermittent clashes occurred between government forces and these threat groups that usually result to killing from opposing sides. 

”Body counts imply that with the continued number of criminals killed, they should now be losing momentum in their violent campaign but, if that is not the case, then they are recruiting much faster than we can blink. Considering this, body count may undermine the credibility of the military aside from arising issues of human rights,” explained Pangilinan. 

”Further, by focusing on killings, the military is being reduced to mere combatants and distracts from or negates to the soldiers’ more significant contributions in improving people’s lives including that of their former enemies,” he also said.

While the military has drastically reduced manpower of all the three main threat groups, the number remains high with new recruits lured to join the anti-government forces’ ranks due to various reasons, like injustice, lack of education, the lure of money and poverty. 

In this light, the AFP is now geared towards increased civil military operations throughout the country and other ways to communicate to communities and to the enemies of the state, directly or indirectly, to emphasize the futility of resistance against the democratic government and intensify the appeal of mainstream society and normal way of life. 

”Winning the hearts and minds of the enemies is the new paradigm. Are we capturing and encouraging surrenders more than the insurgent groups are recruiting? This is the new question,” said Pangilinan, adding “thus, to find criminals or terrorists and their weapons – without going into necessity of killing them – is the new challenge.” 

 ”The military may kill every enemy but as long as the enemy’s belief and reasons in joining the criminal groups live and linger, there will always be new recruits to replace those members or leaders killed. The time, the place, the people may vary but the problem stays the same,” said Pangilinan.

”Thus, it is in eliminating the recruitment platforms of the enemy or their reasons for going against the government such as poverty, illiteracy, abuses, among other social issues and injustices and replacing these with good governance that we can effectively exterminate terrorists,” Pangilinan also said. 

Pangilinan noted that inflation of troops in certain regions could not provide long-term security in the area as the troops cannot stay in one area forever but having insurgents back to the folds of the law and live a normal life is found to be the best recourse. 

 “While it is tougher to persuade violent enemies to surrender than to kill them, it’s effectiveness is enormous in the sense that the enemy is most hurt and demoralized by desertion than firing a staggering amount of bullets and losing a few members,” he said. 

 ”Numbers should never be again confused with efficacy. Killing an enemy is merely lessening one body from the threat group but if the military is successful in encouraging an enemy to surrender it will mean one less for the enemy and one more for the military,” said Pangilinan. 

First quarter figures indicated that at least 2,296 insurgents have been neutralized from 2006 up to May this year, bringing down the current rebels' strength to just about 4,874 from 7,170 in 2006. The neutralization of the 2,296 rebels was by way of killing, surrender or capture, the military data indicated. 

The current NPA strength is the lowest since the 1980s when the communist movement reached its peak strength of more than 24,000. Also, the number of communist guerrilla fronts is now down to 75 from 100 in 2006.

On the other hand, mainstream MILF strength was pegged at 11,542 with 7,658 firearms while lawless MILF group has an estimated manpower of 2,990 with 2,950 firearms. The strength of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, which continued to hold ICRC worker Italian Eugenio Vagni as hostage in Sulu, was put at 410 warm bodies with 345 firearms. 

At present, the military has increased its operational tempo against all threat groups in compliance with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s directive to render insurgency problem to insignificant level by 2010. (PNA)