IMagine Filipino soldiers wearing traditional barung saya, with a guitar in tow, serenading the poorest folks in Bicol. Imagine them carrying a traditional nipa hut on their shoulders while the rest of them help the poorest of the poor in their field work.
No, no, no, this is not a dream. This basically sums up the new anti-insurgency strategy of the AFP which they call "Bayanihan."
From "Bantay Laya" which is militarist in approach, the new approach is a sing and dance routine called "bayanihan" or civil-military work. Engagement is thru civil works not thru an armed encounter. Meaning, the new definition of an "encounter" really is "engagement."
What would be the effects of this new strategy? Well.
First, this will re-model or re-imagine the image of the Filipino soldier in the countryside. This strategy is more of an image-building one, than anything.
What the AFP wants is supplant or represent the national government in insurgency infested areas. If we are to look in the map, insurgency breeds in largely poverty stricken areas, and these areas are mainly away from the centre of power. IN our system, the farther you are from the center, the lesser you reap the economic benefits of whatever growth the government gets.
Insurgency hotspots highlight the inability of government to extend its power over these territories. The lesser government presence is in those areas, the higher the possibility of rebel control. When people feel neglected, they then turn to alternatives. The supplantation of government therefore completes itself when the entire area gives the revolutionaries the power to administer their daily affairs.
Now, it would take some years for the AFP to fully change their image, from an oppressor to a friendly. It would also take some years for the people to turn from frightened and oppressed masses to a cooperative one simply because of years' of barbarity some AFP units did in certain areas of the country.
It would, therefore, not be as easy as the State envisions this to be, simply because Filipinos have long memories especially those living in agrarian areas.
Second, a more engaging role for the AFP means lesser fights and encounters and more negotiations than actual engagement. This would mean, lesser allocation for bullets and guns and more allocation for civil works, especially road works. This is a good strategy because even if this strategy fails to quell the decades-old rebellion in the countrysides, in the long run, this benefits the entire polity.
However, I feel extremely optimistic if the AFP applies this strategy in Mindanao. For one, the Bangsamoros only desire is peace. If the AFP manages to dismantle their Tadtads and other para-military units in the area and replace them with civil-military teams, this would probably lessen the incidence first, of criminality and second, of insurgency. If the AFP manages to position itself as a harbinger of peace instead of death, then, the organisation may be able to solve the peace and order problem in Mindanao, quicker and faster than what other generations of AFP generals failed to accomplish.
This happens on the ground, what about at the top? If the AFP thinks that centralised authority will be completely crippled when individual units "cooperate" with them thru "Bayanihan", that is a long shot. First, the centralised authority is completely ideological and political. It would take a long convincing for old revolutionaries to consider peace than revolutionary work.
By the way, that image of a soldier carrying a nipa hut on their shoulders should probably raise alarm bells, if implemented in the countrysides. Why? Because people might suspect that they are being hamletted to some area away from their actual homes. Joke.
It would be nice if we see a coalition government spring from this new administration. That is the political solution to this decades-old insurgency---giving power to those whose lives have been dedicated to the advancement of the people's cause.