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At the AFP Intelligence Family Conference 2011 and Launch of the Human Rights-based Intelligence Operations and Rules of Behavior: A Guidebook

21 January 2011

delivered by
Loretta Ann P. Rosales

“Military Intelligence and Human Rights”

General Ricardo David Jr.,
Major General Francisco Cruz, Jr.
Secretary Cesar Garcia, Jr.
Secretary Teresita “Ging” Deles
Members of the AFP Intelligence Family,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

A pleasant morning.

It is an honor to take part in this forum on various aspects of military intelligence, together with the National Security Adviser and the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process.

I have to confess that when it comes to the subject of our discussion – military intelligence – my knowledge is no match for the expertise our dear partners in the defense and military establishment possess. Hence, I would not venture to devote this brief remarks on military intelligence in reference to how it is actually conducted, except to say that it intelligence work is a fundamental component of military operations. Information, after all, is power. My main objective, however, is to paint in broad strokes to the best of my ability how human rights standards and principles can actually be operationalized in the way the military collects, processes, evaluates and disseminates information.

Perhaps no unit of the uniformed services is more feared than the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces (ISAFP). In the two periods of our history where we have experienced martial law – the first one declared, the second undeclared – military intelligence has invariably been linked to gross violations of human rights. On a conceptual level not very difficult to relate to, intelligence work seems to go against the right to privacy, considered by all constitutional law scholars as the most ancient of all rights. Yet some of these legal experts would also argue that it is the right to privacy which is of a more recent vintage, its birth traced to the seminal Harvard Law Review article by Warren and Brandeis entitled “The Right to Privacy” published in 1890.

Military intelligence, on the other hand, goes a long way down to the dawn of civilization. States have risen, kingdoms born on the strength of conquest, aided by the timely gathering and processing of information vital to the eventual victor's political and military goals. In the Holy Bible, for example, the Book of Exodus narrates how Moses sent 40 men from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to go around the land of the Canaanites, to learn their ways and discover their secrets in preparation for its invasion. Many years later, Joshua, one of the spies whom Moses sent, would himself send out two of his men to the city of Jericho to investigate its military strength. Interestingly, espionage even in biblical times has always possessed a romantic element, much like in the James Bond movies we Filipinos have all learned to love. For in that story of Joshua's spies in Jericho, love blossomed between Rahab, a Canaanite woman who hid the spies under bales of flax, and an Israelite named Salmon, and these two eventually became the ancestors of Jesus.

A more historical example of ancient military intelligence may be seen in the travails of the Marco Polo, who was originally sent by the Republic of Venice to verify reports of a rich kingdom in the Orient, and ended up serving the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan for many years. Marco Polo eventually returned to Europe and brought with him many of China's secrets, one of which was gunpowder.

But before I get sidetracked into the alleys of historiography, I would like to go direct to my point – that intelligence work, while at all times risky, is likewise a very positive force if used for the right reasons and using the right methods. This is where human rights standards and principles become relevant.

Human rights is needed to ensure that the process and outcome of such vital operations do not exceed the limits set by our democratic and republican system. When it comes to state activities that affect, directly and indirectly, the freedoms every person is entitled to have, human rights serve to trump all other considerations. It ensures that the ends do not justify the means. As a system of rules having the force of law by virtue of our constitutional framework, human rights should inform the behavior of each intelligence personnel. I am glad that the first two pillars of your Human Rights-Based Intelligence Operation (HR BIO) approach are the promotion and protection of human rights, within and without the AFP. These are the operational objectives of a human rights-based military practice.

Even as we discuss this topic today, however, a heavy cloud hangs over our heads. Jonas Burgos remains missing. No one knows whether he's alive or dead for a long time already. Yet fingers still point at ISAFP, and the military establishment as a whole, asking for answers more credible than the alibis that were so common under the former administration. A few days after Jonas' abduction, an intelligence agent came out to disclose his own unit's complicity. According to him, he overheard some of agents talking days before the abduction in the ISAFP canteen – “O, paano na si Burgos? Na-kahon na ba?” using intelligence parlance meaning that the subject’s movements and location had been established and that the subject was ready to be picked up. According to the source, one of the men had the code name “Bajam”. Another man, the supposed leader of the abducting team, went under the names “Tango Lima,” “TL (team leader),” “Master” or “Chief.” A woman was known as “Donna” or “Madonna.” All were members of a team within the ISAFP called a “spot” in intelligence parlance.

For all the promise that your new approach to intelligence operation possesses, nothing would be more compelling in the eyes of the people than a just and comprehensive closure to this gruesome stain in the fabric of our history. This brings to fore the third pillar of your HR-BIO: “Conducting impartial investigations against personnel suspected of involvement in human rights violations.” Cleaning up the organization is a tall order but it has be done if only prove that the AFP is an accountable institution that can be trusted to weed itself of thuggish elements.

Good intentions must be backed up by serious actions and concrete results. Your cooperation in pursuit of justice for Jonas Burgos and all the victims of human rights violations or abuses in the past as well as the measures you would institute within the military intelligence family in order to prevent and prosecute future violations, together comprise the crucible upon which your bona fides would be tested.

The Commission on Human Rights is the AFP's strategic partner in this mission. The CHR's constitutional mandate to investigate human rights violations may be linked to the new approach the AFP now takes on military intelligence operations. CHR's i nvestigative activities focus on the successful prosecution of those responsible for violations of Human Rights. Military intelligence can help investigators make the best and most practicable decisions by sharing information on a platform of trust. While intelligence may read and ingest all the material relating to the investigation it always maintains a degree of abstraction from the investigation to see connections between the investigation, the operating environment and other initiatives. The responsibilities of intelligence do not have a definite start and live on well after the investigation has finished. Intelligence can often look at the same problem being examined by an investigation, but it is a support function and does not seek to duplicate the investigation's activities. The decision making involved in the investigation brings the two together and make sure that the intelligence is integrated into the investigation.

Our institutional partnership can be served by creating feedback loops between military intelligence and human rights investigations, whether conducted by the CHR or the AFP. This ensures that the intelligence is accessible to the investigators and other people making decisions about the investigation, and that information is fed back into the intelligence process.

This occasion marks an important juncture in your history as an institution. Under the new Internal Peace and Security Plan: Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP has entered into the exclusive club of military organizations in the world professing adherence to the tenets of human rights and humanitarian law. Applying HR BIO, you now pledge to adhere to three core principles: First, no indiscriminate use of force or willful violations of laws and regulations. Second, the judicious use of force to avoid or lessen material damage and civilian casualties. Third, conduct compliant with the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The Commission on Human Rights notes this with great appreciation.

At the same time, I greet with much excitement the impending ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) which would enhance our domestic legal regime against torture and other inhumane practices especially in the context of detention, as defined by the Anti-Torture Act. With the broad human rights community, I also look forward to the ratification in due time of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Convention Against Enforced Disappearance and Extralegal Killings, two important treaties which, along with OPCAT, would elevate the standards of law enforcement and military operations at par with the best of the world, for the benefit of the Filipino people.

Under the administration of President Aquino, I am fully confident that the state security sector would live up to its mission of promoting and protecting human rights while winning the peace. Human rights secure the rule of law even as the rule of law guarantees the enjoyment of human rights by all and in all circumstances. After years living under a culture of fear, silence and impunity, we can at last beyond the red horizon the bright rays of the sun of justice.

In closing, I reaffirm what I have written in your HR BIO Guidebook, that it is a timely and relevant effort amid reports of human rights violations attributed to the military. Beyond doubt, it reaffirms the AFP's commitment to anchor security and intelligence operations on a firm human rights framework. Noting the significance of this occasion, I can almost feel the ground shifting as our hearts, minds and hands start to make human rights a conscious reality not only in military intelligence operations but in the entire security sector.

Hanggang dito na lamang po, maraming salamat at mabuhay kayong lahat!