CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bantay Bayanihan (BB) network reaffirmed on 3 March 2017 their commitment to continue “constructive and critical engagements” in pursuing security sector reform (SSR).

“In a gathering with representatives of various civil society organizations(CSO), the AFP and BB led the gesture in cognizance of the changes in our strategy to win the peace,” AFP Public Affairs Chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.

The commitment, which is based on the democratic civilian oversight of military operations, seeks to ensure that the AFP also embodies and observes human rights, International Humanitarian Law, and Rule of Law (HR-IHL-RoL) in all its operations.

“This partnership with BB has served and will continue to serve as a check and balance on our military operations, specifically in our campaigns against the New People’s Army and the Abu Sayyaf Group,” Col Arevalo said.

“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,” Col Arevalo added.

BB 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.

BB has been serving as a space for dialogue between the AFP and various peace and security stakeholders nationwide where issues on HR-IHL-RoL, transparency and accountability, civil-military operations, peace and conflict dynamics, and SSR are freely discussed.

Since then, BB 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, BB 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.

“We are in great gratitude to Bantay Bayanihan for having the noble vision of unifying the AFP with every advocate of peace and security – may they be from civilian organizations, other local government units, and the academe,” said AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, who was represented by LtGen Narciso Vingson, The Deputy Chief of Staff AFP.

“Through our joint initiatives, AFP's vision of having institutional reform is now being embraced in our work culture; the gap between the military and the civilian society is filled in with substantial engagements; winning and sustaining the peace is now the Filipino people's fight and no longer the AFP's alone; and finally, the IPSP Bayanihan culminated successfully, giving birth to DSSPKapayapaan,” General Año concluded.