The security sector reforms (SSR) evolve from a concrete context of conflicts, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan. It tries to re-define the role of soldiers not simply in terms of warriors but also in terms of peacebuilding as community or society emerges from conflict situation.
In the Philippines, the SSR story begins in a similar conflict situation, particularly in Southern Philippines. The journey would never have taken off the ground without the active partnership of two officers and gentlemen of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are LtGen. Moh. Benjamin Dolorfino and LtGen. Raymundo Ferrer. Both Gen. Dolorfino and Gen. Ferrer have been involved into all sorts of peace initiatives since they were young officers.
The two generals began the conversation with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) on possible training workshops on security sector reforms for the officers of the AFP assigned in Mindanao. The major task is to find a fund partner since the training workshops are not included in the regular AFP budgetary allocations.
The concept of the security sector reforms is still very young in the history of the AFP. It is inevitable that during the initial discussions, some senior military officers have expressed their reservation on training workshops that include among others, history of Mindanao, the peace process and bridging leadership for officers of the AFP.
The two generals, Gen. Dolorfino and Gen. Ferrer, doggedly continued the conversation with IAG. IAG’s partner, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, funded the small beginnings of the SSR in Mindanao.
For a Mindanao-wide SSR training workshop, a need for a big fund donor is to be found. Initial conversation on the SSR concept was conducted with Mr. TitonMitra, Minister Counsellor, of Australian Agency for International Development (AusAid) was promising. And in subsequent talks, AusAid became fully on board. With the fund support from AusAid, the dream has come true.
The engagement in SSR has become more urgent with the resumption of the peace talks following the debacle of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008 and with the Philippine government’s official declaration of the priority of the peace process policy.
IAG has developed two phases in the Security Sector Reforms. The first phase consists of three major themes that underpin the existing peacebuilding training programs. The first theme is a brief study of the history of Mindanao with special focus on the struggles of the two Moro Fronts (MNLF and MILF). This is an attempt to contextualize the emerging role of the AFP as peacebuilders in the midst of conflict situation in the Southern Philippines.
The second theme situates the said role within the framework of the basic human rights as enshrined in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The module includes also a brief presentation of the International Humanitarian Law. These rights are inalienable and no matter the situation on the ground, the basic rights of people have to be recognized and respected, especially so by the security sector.
The third theme deals on the many and various peacebuilding attempts and concrete praxis on the ground where the AFP, particularly the Philippine Marines, interface as they shape their new emerging role of peacebuilders. The actual module includes also conflict analysis and mediation, particularly in rural areas that involve the participation of local leaders.
The second phase of the SSR was launched during the stint of MGenDolorfino as Commanding General of the Philippine Marines Corps. But the actual implementation happened during the stint of MGen Juancho Sabban who took over from MGen Dolorfino when the latter was promoted as the Commanding General of the Mindanao Western Command.
The second phase consists of ten modules focusing on four major themes.
The first theme (Modules 1-2) deals on the holistic understanding of the conflicts in the Philippines, their roots, the growth of the rebellion through the years, and the peace process that has become the official policy of government beginning in 1992 during the presidency of Fidel V. Ramos.
The second theme (Modules 3-4) situates the conflicts within the broader understanding of Human Security following the UN definition that includes among others economic, food, health, environment, personal, community and political security. It also links the work for peace to Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law. Basic Human Right as enshrined in the Philippine Constitution and the UN Declaration of Human Rights are inalienable rights and cannot be dispensed with in the name of a narrow understanding of national security.
The third theme (Module 5-6) expound on the actual imperatives on the ground as soldiers shape their role as peacebuilders. It begins with a fresher understanding of the traditional Civil Military Operation (CMO) hewed from the actual praxis on the ground. The usual understanding of CMO as a simple counter-insurgency is transformed into new ways of addressing conflicts through peacebuilding initiatives in the communities. From CMO, it moves to the very heart of the third theme that expounds on soldiers as peacemakers, peacekeepers and peacebuilders.
The fourth theme (Modules 7-10) shows the need of soldiers’ involvement and active participation in concrete imperatives in the communities. These are the following: (1) sustainable community development; (2) the urgent call for action to become environmental stewards; (3) the need for effective social marketing for peace; and (4) soldiers as ‘Bridging Leaders’ in the communities they are ‘planted’.
The whole SSR story tells a different message as it shapes a new paradigm for soldiers, particularly in situation of conflicts and post conflict. . The classic understanding of the Armed Forces as ‘protectors’ under the narrow understanding of so-called National Security Doctrine is no longer sustainable. The old paradigm may be ‘successful’ in the short terms, but both in the medium and long terms, military might does no put an end to conflicts, specifically internal conflicts. The old military operations have always been saddled by accusations of human rights abuse, lack of sensitivity (ethnic and religious), and devoid of any understanding of the deep root causes of conflicts.
No doubt, there is an urgent need for a new paradigm that spells concretely the new emerging roles of soldiers in times of conflict as well as post conflict. The SSR, though often labelled by ‘left activists’ as sophisticated counter-insurgency program, are, actually, attempts to re-define the role of the Armed Forces as protectors of the people and the nation.
The Ten Modules that accompany the SSR story capture these attempts and praxis on the ground of Southern Philippines. The Institute for Autonomy and Governance with its partner, the Philippine Marines Corps, offer these modules to the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines, specifically to the Training and Doctrine Command (TraDoc).
In fact, the last training workshop on SSR made attempts to get the AFP TraDoc Command on board so as to include SSR into the military curricula at all levels of training. These attempts are ripples within the AFP. But, IAG and PMC believe that the ripples can become waves in the AFP as it adopts the fourth pillar in peace and security framework articulated by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.