Strict Adherence to HR, IHL, ROE and ROL an AFP imperative in Military Operations


AFP Thrust on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
by AFP CMO Correspondence Course  Student No. 016



           "Discipline in combat is essential. Disobedience of the law of armed conflict dishonors your nation, the Navy and you. Far from weakening the enemy's will to fight, such disobedience strengthens it." (The Law of War, USMC Professional Development Series)


          In the performance of the constitutionally-mandated task of protecting the people, securing the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of its national territory, every soldier of the AFP must abide by the law of armed conflict with strict adherence to Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law  and the rule of law. Failure to observe or a violation thereof will bring discredit not only to one's self, the military service but to the nation as well. Instead of weakening the enemy's defense or will to fight, non-observance or a violation thereof would instigate to strengthen the enemy's will to fight.


          In times of armed conflict, a disciplined soldier must learn whether or not to pursue the enemy depending on prevailing situations. To borrow the words of Jean Jacques Rousseu, "War is in no way a relationship between states in which individuals are enemies only by accident; not as men nor even as citizens, but as soldiers... Since the object of war is to destroy the enemy of the state, it is legitimate to kill the latter's defenders as long as they are carrying arms; but as soon as they lay them down and surrender, they cease to be enemies or agents of the enemy, and once again become mere men and it is no longer legitimate to take their lives."


          This simply means that while enemies of the state must be destroyed, it is forbidden to kill or injure an enemy who surrenders or who can no longer take part in the fighting. Soldiers must also be able to distinguish between the civilian population and the combatants in order to spare civilian population and property. Parties to war conflicts as well as members of the forces do not have unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare. There are human rights guarantees under the Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law that must be accorded to everyone.


       In my assessment, the AFP is committed to its thrust and efforts on Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law exemplified through its conduct of various CMO activities.


          In the Philippines, the human rights system is hardly encouraging, to say the least. It is because wherever one goes, there are violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. The country is mired in poverty. There are numerous landless and homeless filipinos who live below poverty line. Their rights to food, health, clothing, shelter, education, work, adequate standards of living and in general, a life of dignity are violated day after day.


          Continuing threats to the country's political stability further aggravate the situation. The government despite claims of victory, is engaged in what seems like an endless war with communist insurgents and countless violations of human rights of both combatants and parties to the conflicts.


          Hence, the AFP whose role is to preserve external security, is also among the agencies set up by the government to assist in further strengthening the country's human rights promotion and protection system.



1.  The Law of War, USMC Professional Development Series
2.  The 1987 Philippine Constitution
3.  Transnational Terrorist Organization and the Use of Force
by Daphne Richemond
4.  Human Rights Seminar Kit
by CHR  Public Information and Education Office
5.  The Human Rights System in the Philippines
Ateneo Human Rights Law Journal Vol I, 1992
by Atty. Carlos P. Medina, Jr.


AFP’s thrusts and efforts on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law
by AFP  CMO Correspondence Course Student No. 045


             “The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory” (1987 Constitution, Article II, Section 3 from


            The AFP has been waging internal war against insurgency for more than four (4) decades now, as “it is not a threat to the sovereignty of the state alone. More than a threat it poses to our democracy and institutions, insurgency and armed conflict threatens the way of life, safety and security of Filipinos” (AFP IPSP “Bayanihan”, page 1). Moreover, “the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as protector of the people, is mandated to rid the country of such insurgency” (Jose A. R. Melo et al, Report, Independent Commission to Address Media and Activist Killings dtd 22 Jan 2007, page 79).


            Being the protector of the people, the AFP must adhere to existing rules, regulations and laws governing the conduct of military actions in order to spare non-military objectives from collateral damage. Moreover, the AFP must train its personnel with emphasis on the observance of these existing rules, regulations and laws and stringent disciplinary measures must be taken against AFP personnel violating the same. The AFP can not justify its legitimacy as the protector of the people and the state while violating the charter it is supposed to uphold. The AFP has no business in fighting insurgency if only “at the expense of innocent civilians” for whom its personnel sworn to serve and protect.


            “While communist insurgency must be addressed, the fight against it must not be at the expense of the constitution and the laws of the nation, and it hardly needs emphasizing, not at the expense of innocent civilians. The Armed forces is not a state within a state, nor are its members outside the ambit of the constitution or of the rule of law. Ours is a government of laws, not of men” (Jose A. R. Melo et al, Report, Independent Commission to Address Media and Activist Killings dtd 22 Jan 2007, page 79).


            History would tell us that violations on human rights committed by soldiers before were counterproductive to the government in its counter-insurgency efforts, particularly to the AFP. Violating the rights of the people contradicts the idea of winning the hearts and minds of the people, moreso, on winning the peace. Our new campaign paradigm as specified in the new AFP campaign plan IPSP “Bayanihan” is geared towards “winning the peace” through focused Civil-Military Operations “attacking” the “center of gravity”, which is the people, with the participation of all stakeholders through the delivery of socio-economic services, among others, while the focus of military actions will be on the armed insurgents and legitimate military targets. This seems so simple, but the complexities in carrying out actions in actuality may imperil the desire of the plan if the players (e.g. campaign commanders, soldiers) do not abide by the laws or has knew nothing what is appropriate in accordance with the laws. All players to be involved in the campaign must be educated about the thrust and desire of the campaign plan. Moreover, they must be educated on the existing Rules of Engagement (ROE) which is especially tailored to suit in the execution of the plan.


            Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin of the Department of National Defense has “approved for implementation and adoption by the AFP, as recommended by the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) ‘Bayanihan’” (Memorandum to CS, AFP dtd 31 March 2011). The “ROE provides the general principles and foundational rules based on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) also referred to as Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), national policies and pieces of legislation. It also prescribes task-specific rules in the implementation of IPSP” (ROE for AFP IPSP “Bayanihan” dtd 08 March 2011, page 1).


             However, useless, regardless of the amount of knowledge hereof that our players has acquired if it is not coupled with discipline. No amount of CMO efforts can win the hearts and minds of the people with abusive soldiers. Wrongdoings of abusive soldiers “fertilize” insurgency. In the PAF, Human Rights Office is established at all level of command down to the squadron/company level to ensure strict observance of the same and violation committed by personnel will be acted upon at once.


            The decline in strength of the insurgents (CNN) from 25,000 in 1987 to 4,702 in 2009 can be attributed to the peace efforts of the government which earned the trust and confidence of the people. Although, even after the Martial Law, the AFP is battered by human rights violations accusations, specially, from 2001-2006 activist killings, the AFP has emerged to be the protector of the people during this period unlike during the Martial Law regime where massive human rights violations were perpetrated. So long the AFP project itself as the protector of the people and the state and the ambassador of goodwill to the people, the AFP gains the advantage of winning the people over the enemy.





By AFP CMO Correspondence Course Student No. 057


“Anything you do can get you killed, including nothing”
-Murphy’s Law of Combat Operations



          We who are in the profession of arms swore to defend the sovereignty of the state and therefore include the citizen that resides in it. As we defend the sovereignty of this state, we should also defend everything that its citizen possesses; including their rights.


           We in the Armed Forces had gone through issues that concerns Human Rights. To some of us, hearing those words seems negative. The PNP and AFP were the ones identified as violators of human rights, but to those who were accused, do they really mean to violate these rights? According to moral philosophers; “ignorance excuses no one”, therefore leaves some of our comrades accountable. But the next question would be, are we really ignorant? My answer is no. We all know the procedures, the details and what to do, some of us chose to short cut the procedures to make the job done, but unaware that we are violating the rights of others.


            As we embark to a new campaign plan; the IPSP Bayanihan, the Filipino soldiers are challenged to look into another perspective on how we could win the peace without harming or violating the rights of our fellowmen. It is indicated in our constitution; “Salus Populi Suprema Lex” which means, “the safety/welfare of the people is the supreme law”. This is our mandate; we in the AFP are the guardians of this provision in our constitution that is to protect the welfare of the people, therefore leaving us that we should not ignorant to these laws. Each in every one of us is challenged to have a paradigm shift. We were trained as war fighters; we use arms to protect the state and the people living in it. We are challenged to a new task which is to be peace advocates even though we let go of our arms.


          Civil Military Operations is one of the important aspects of our new campaign plan. Through CMO we can show the people of this country that we are their protectors; that we too are citizens of this country and possess the same rights as what they have. By protecting their rights and adhering to the HR, IHL, and RoL, we too protect our own rights.


           The AFP has its own office of Human Rights, proving that their AFP is an advocate of Human Rights. In the IPSP Bayanihan, the adherence to Human Rights is stated in one of its approaches; the People Centered Approach. Through this strategic approach, the AFP should always put the people’s welfare in the center of military operations. By doing this we adhere to Human Rights and put the protection of the people’s roghts in the level of local security based on the realities and needs of every community. Isn’t this a CMO way? This gives us the reason why CMO plays a very important role to this campaign plan and give emphasis to the people through its strategic approaches.


          Before I end this, I would like to site an example. Recently many improvements were already on the process because of our campaign plan. Because of this, some of our accomplishments gained positive results even to the people. The captivity of fugitives show that we really are serious in taking into consideration the welfare of the people. We even have good relations with the Commission on Human Rights to let the people feel that we in the AFP are its protectors not violators. 





By AFP CMO Correspondence Course Student No. 23


         We in the AFP can protect the people and secure the state against all armed threats by upholding and abiding to Human Right, International Humanitarian Laws and Role of Engagement (ROE) in our activity or operation. “Civilian authority is at all times, supreme over the military.  The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State.  Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”  (Sec. 3 of the Philippines Constitution). As mandated, we the AFP is created for the protection of the people and the State, it is the very essence of our existence. But because of some blunder made by our past comrade, the AFP is been subjected to allegations of Human Rights violation like the so-called Extra-Judicial killing (EJK) and Enforced Disappearances (ED). 
With the present AFP leaderships and the new Campaign Plan that focused on: 1) Paradigm shift on how the AFP views its mandate of protecting the people and the state and 2)   Shift from a predominantly militaristic solution to a people-centered security strategy, we can achieve our Constitutional mandate. “Let us be guided by our non-negotiable: abidance to the rule of law; respect for human rights; adherence to the International Humanitarian Law; and observance of the rules of engagement and the use of force.” (GEN A DAVID JR AFP, Former Chief of Staff, AFP)


        The AFP new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) known also as “Bayanihan” state   that true peace can be achieved thru two (2) Strategic Approaches, Whole of the Nation Approach and the People Centered Approach. Also, the AFP shall be guided by two equally important Strategic Imperatives, adherence to Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law, and Involvement of all Stakeholders. By disseminating, educating and inculcating among our personnel said Strategic Approaches and Imperatives, we can lessen if not totally eliminate Human Rights abuses that some civil society and stakeholders is accusing us.
Protecting Human Rights (HR) and adhering to the provisions of the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) does not mean that we cannot destroy or neutralize the members of identified threat groups. Contrary to that belief, IHL provides us with the rules on how we conduct our operations to address these threat groups yet still protecting the rights of those who are not part of the armed conflict. (Page 26, Chapter 3, Soldiers Handbook on Human Rights and IHL)
IHL protect persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. IHL is also known as the Law of War or the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) is part of public international law. (Page 35, Chapter 4, Soldiers Handbook on Human Rights and IHL). Threat groups like the CNN, SPSG, MILF, rogue MNLF, Abu Sayyaf who are still conducting hostile actions are considered exempted to IHL.


       The establishment by the AFP of the Human Rights Offices, to tactical units (Division, Brigade, and Battalion) of the three (3) Major Service is one way of showing to others civil society and stakeholders that the AFP is serious not just in its Campaign plan Strategic Imperatives but in making the AFP professional and its personnel a follower and at the same protectors of Human Rights. Its function is not just too monitored Human Rights violation of some AFP personnel but also Human Rights violations of abovementioned threat groups, filling charges and cases and; helping victims and their families.

1. AFP Soldiers’ Handbook on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
2. AFP’s The Law of Armed Conflict.
3. AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”.




By AFP CMO Correspondence Course Student codename: Abocado


           The Philippine Constitution explicitly defines the role of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the protector of the people and the state.  In order to protect the people, all civil rights to include protection of human rights were also provided for in our constitution.  Every citizen must enjoy his civil rights and benefit from all the mandatory obligations of the state regardless of his faith, color and status in life.  When it defines what a Filipino citizen is, it did not categorized whether one is rich or poor, fair skin or dark, law abiding citizen or not.  It is therefore imperative that when ensuring the protection of the rights of every citizen of the State, the AFP must also protect the rights even of those whom the state calls enemy.

            As an instrument of the state in fulfilling its obligation to every citizen of the Country, protection of these rights must be the foremost consideration of the AFP at all times.  Once the AFP violates these rights, it loses its integrity and essence as the protector of the people.     

            But how does one ensure the protection of the people when it threatens the rights, safety and well being of other people?  It may be difficult especially to some of our soldiers whom the gun of armed groups are pointed at them and take their like or harm them in an instant.  Nonetheless, the answer is simple.  Reckoning from the discussion above, the mandate of the AFP starts and ends with the protection of the rights of the people.  Therefore, AFP’s mission accomplishment should be anchored not solely on the enemy neutralized but on the protection of rights of everyone in the performance of our mandate.  Whenever a human rights violation occur, whether inadvertently is not performing in the best ability as a professionalize organization. 

            This is the very ideals of the new AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan.”  The paradigm shift is that the military objectives are consistent with the adherence to human rights and that an operation shall never be considered successful if a violation occurs.

            Though it may seem difficult not to violate any rights during a military operation, well informed personnel can help attain the objective of zero-violations.  If everyone knows what prudent actions to be done, if everyone knows the procedure, and everyone adheres to the rule, human rights violation may be avoided.

               Conversely, the creation of Human Rights Office from general headquarters down to the battalion level in the AFP is a strong manifestation of a commitment of the organization to adherence to human rights, internal humanitarian law and rule of law.

            Recently, the AFP vigorously pursues the conduct of various dialogue and collaboration with various stakeholders to refine the conduct of operations in order to ensure protection of everyone’s civil rights.  Taking step further is the adoption of human rights intelligence based information. 

            Generally, the whole AFP trudges towards protecting the people and the state.  It gives its unequivocal commitment in maintaining a peaceful environment conducive to development.  More than ever, it realizes that protection of human rights and adherence to rule of law is not only a provision in a six-year campaign plan to try-out in order to address internal armed threat.  The AFP now realized that protection of human rights shall and always remain as the ultimate mission of the organization. 




By AFP CMO Correspondence Student  Codenamed: Langka


          To explain or discuss how the AFP can protect the people and secure the State against all armed threats with strict adherence to the human rights and assess the AFP’s thrusts and efforts on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law it is very important to first refer on the international as well as national instruments pertains to HR. Squarely mentioning the Universal Declaration of HR, ICCPR, ICESCR & International Convention Against Torture beside these international instruments, there are national laws, such as Article-III of the1987 Constitution which is the Bill of Rights, Revised Penal Code and other Special Laws that guarantee life, liberty, freedom and equal protection.

           The AFP is constitutionally mandated to protect the people secure the sovereignty of the state and the integrity of the national territory. If we would notice the mandate of our organization is focused on the protecting the people on the one hand and the security of the state on the other hand and to maintain the integrity of the national territory in general. In relation to the AFP’s thrusts and efforts on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law it is observed that our 1987 Constitution which is the highest law in the Philippine Republic  tells us to accomplish our mission with utmost respect to the rule of law.

          At present, the AFP has IPSP Bayanihan whose objective is to win the peace. This underpinned by two strategic approaches first is the whole-of-nation approach and the second is the people-centered approach. In order to realize the whole of nation approach the involvement of all stakeholders as much as on military operations is paramount. The second strategic approach is the people centered operating within the frame of human security that puts the people’s welfare at the center of military operations. This approach gives primacy to human rights.

          And as read in the AFP CMO Doctrine, the best CMO is a disciplined soldier serving the people. It may be deduced that such doctrine, would mean that the disciplined soldier are those soldiers who abide by the rule of law. These are soldiers who do not make shortcut in accomplishing their assigned tasks. The soldiers whose fidelity you could with utmost confidence rely that they will follow legal process and obey lawful orders from their superiors. These disciplined soldiers may also be the Commanding Officers/Head of Unit/Office whose instructions are within the bounds of law.

           Now that HR/IHL took dramatic changes in the armed struggle as far as promotion and protection of the same. Foremost is the activation of AFP Human Rights Office which serves as special staff on matters related to HR/IHL. By the creation of said office the AFP has opened-up in engaging various sectors, stakeholders and human rights shareholder as well.

           To assess the new thrust of AFP focused on HR/IHL is no easy task. In determining or weighing the effectiveness of the AFP efforts on HR/IHL the organization must be confluence both on proactive measures and must be preventive in nature. There should be proper education on what is meant by Doctrine of Command Responsibility and proper guidance on the Standing Rules of Engagement.  




AFP’s thrusts and efforts on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law

By AFP CMO Correspondence  Student Nr. 17


          The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has played the major role in upholding and defending the constitution and protecting the populace against all enemy’s of the State it is also a vital partner of the National government for peace and development of the nation. In reference to command guidance of Chief of Staff, AFP that the Internal Peace and Security problem in our country cannot be resolve by just the AFP itself to win the war or winning the Peace instead. However, it is customarily the AFP are prime suspect in alleged some killings of the leftist activist, summary execution of political detainees etc. in rural areas  and soldiers has been charge of human rights violation by a court in the localities or elsewhere during their tour of duty and the worst thing could not retire for good.

         Soldiers usually bear the warrior soul looking – one’s eagerness to fight amidst risk and threats. Others taking the role of human rights might slacken the warrior soul in them. Initially could contain the impossibility of putting together preservation of life and destruction of enemies, making it unlikely for one to be the warrior and at the same time human rights protector such belief is probably cause by the lack of awareness on the true meaning and the purpose of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law. Indeed, soldiers can be a warrior and HR protector at the same time. A warrior becomes an HR protector when he chooses to strictly follow the provision of International Humanitarian Laws of the Armed Conflict which are based on the principles of human rights. Whereas, in cases where use of lethal force is necessary, principles of self-defense and rule of engagement must be considered. Protecting the rights of people and adhering to the provision of IHL does not mean that we cannot destroy or neutralize the member of the threat groups.

        With this, the AFP shall initiate and respect the rights of individual citizen in peace and in matters of armed conflict to gain popular support from stake holders in attaining and maintaining lasting peace. In order that the AFP achieved zero Human Rights violation and at the same time protect them in the conduct of combat and non-combat operations in the area, first and foremost the AFP Human Rights Office (AFPHRO) shall continue strengthening its advocacy/education adherence to Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and the Role of Law by cascading it from AFP Unified Commands and Major Services down the Battalion level. Unit commanders shall implement and monitor the output which is being mandated by Higher Headquarters.         

        Of the four (4) years of existence of AFP Human Rights Office since year 2007, there are only few of the AFP personnel aware of the provision on HR, IHL and RoL among this are Officers and least from the Enlisted Personnel. Likewise, there are still AFP personnel who have been charged of human rights violation to date.

People Awakening on CMO - the Road to Peace and Security

altToday, many have realized the importance of Civil-Military Operations as evidenced in the active participation or engagement of different stakeholders in the new Internal Peace and Security Plan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This is actually a joint  effort of the DND and the AFP of making the Filipino people take part in conceptualizing ways and means to ultimately achieve peace and security  for our nation.

With this in mind, I, together with my classmates (Cl 04-2010) were fortunate to undergo the CMO EP Basic Course in the Civil Military Operations School, CRSAFP which required  students to understand the new context of the battle where victory is adjudged not by combat but by a non-conventional warfare which is the present  trend. 
It is true indeed that more than all the theories and principles of learning, the School has taught us the most potent contribution we can give as individuals, and that is to be  “disciplined soldiers” at all times.

This was clearly illustrated during the emersion phase of our course in Mindoro Oriental where we saw first-hand and appreciated more the practical concept of Civil-Military Operations (CMO). The 4th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army established and illustrated a strong relationship with the Local Government Units which paved the way for peace and development for the people, thereat. The military empowered the local government to practice good governance. Gradually, the Municipalities of Mindoro Oriental especially Bulalacao are now within the framework of growth, both economically and educationally. Also, convergence of efforts among the different local executives and local military and police authorities are already realized,  thus, lasting peace and security are  not far from being achieved in this place.    alt

Nevertheless, there is a need to educate every individual soldier on this new concept of warfare.  So we encourage our co-enlisted personnel and even officers to undergo the different Civil-Military Operations  training programs offered by the  AFP CMO School, CRSAFP.  ( PFC Elaine Zamrey  R Duran PA)