From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 5): AFP beefs up civilian ties to fully observe human rights, other laws
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is strenghtening its ties with civilians to ensure that all of its troops are observing human rights, international humanitarian law and rule of law in the conduct of all its operations.
This was made apparent when the AFP and the "Bantay Bayanihan" network reaffirmed their commitment to continue their "constructive and critical engagements" in pursuing security sector reforms (SSR).
“In a gathering with representatives of various civil society organizations (CSO), the AFP and 'Bantay Bayanihan' led the gesture in cognizance of the changes in our strategy to win the peace,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a statement Sunday.
The partnership with the civilian organization will also serve serve as a check and balance on ongoing military operations against the New People's Army (NPA) rebels and Abu Sayyaf bandits.
“Given the way both terror groups have embedded itself in civilian communities, a CSO body to watch over our engagements is always welcome in helping us avoid collateral damage and rights violations,” Arevalo added.
"Bantay Bayanihan" is a CSO-led organization that was formally organized in November 2011 as an oversight body to monitor the implementation of AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan.
It has been serving as a space for dialogue between the AFP and various peace and security stakeholders nationwide where issues on human rights, international humanitarian law, rule of law, transparency and accountability, civil-military operations, peace and conflict dynamics, and SSR are freely discussed.
Since then, the organization has grown as a network of more than 150 CSOs from 16 conflict-affected areas and seeks to apply the ‘Bayanihan Spirit’ of constructive and critical engagements for the Development Support and Security Plan "Kapayapaan".
Currently, the group has chapters in NCR, Tarlac, Pampanga, Negros Oriental and Occidental, Samar, Leyte, Misamis Oriental, Lanao Del Norte, Lanao Del Sur, Davao City, Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and the Maguindanao-Cotabato areas.