Army pushing reforms, admits not all follow chain of command

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is acknowledging that it needs to “walk the talk” and prove its public commitment to human rights.

Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, military spokesman, said the AFP is initiating clear measures to strengthen advocacy on human rights, including establishing a new human rights affairs office to be incorporated across and down into all levels of military command. The new office is to be headed by Colonel Domingo Tutaan Jr.

Mabanta said the military is already starting to “walk the talk,” and pointed to its admission that two soldiers were the key suspects in the June 14 murder of activist Benjamen Bayles in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental in the central Philippines. “It is up to the judge to prosecute these men,” he said.

“People have to understand where we are coming from – we are trained to fight; we’re trained to shoot, we were not originally trained as human rights defenders – but all this is now steadily changing,” he said.

“We all recognize the only issue facing the AFP is that of human rights and we accept that – this is why we are changing. A culture of target setting may have been part of the problem in the past – but all that is changing. It will take time, but it is clearly happening,” he added.

Contrary to recent media reporting, the AFP also maintains there has not been any extension of Oplan Bantay Laya II which officially ended last June 30. What is being implemented in its place, they maintain is an interim plan.  Project Target EJK

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