Special Report: Duterte dreams of strong security forces

(Conclusion of Duterte Watch 2019, a SunStar Philippines special report about the “militarization” of the bureaucracy and the legacy that President Rodrigo Duterte wants to leave behind.)

APART from giving a bigger role to retired military and police officers in his administration, President Rodrigo Duterte also wants to strengthen the capabilities of those in active service.

On July 10, 2019, in a speech during an appreciation dinner for former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the President warned of “dangerous times ahead” and said he wanted to leave the nation with strong military and police forces.

"I hope that by the time I make my exit, nandiyan na lahat 'yan because I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president. Hindi ko alam kung sino. And I'd rather that I leave with a strong military and police and equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially [those involved in] terrorism," he said.

The President, who doubled the salaries of all uniformed men in January 2018, said all the resources that the country’s law enforcers need to neutralize hostile forces should be made available soon.

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) couldn’t agree more.

What the PNP has

Based on the record of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the PNP has at least 190,000 members.

The police to population ratio stands at 1 is to 576. The PNP targets a ratio of 1 officer per 500 population.

The PNP currently has only around 12,000 vehicles while the ideal number is 35,000.

Included in the said number of vehicles were the 130 patrol vehicles donated by the Korean government.

MANILA. The Philippine National Police received on May 29, 2019 a total of 130 patrol vehicles from the South Korean government. (File Photo)

MANILA. The Philippine National Police received on May 29, 2019 a total of 130 patrol vehicles from the South Korean government. (File Photo)

The PNP Maritime Group, on the other hand, only has 12 patrol boats, just a fraction of the ideal number of 58.

The PNP recently acquired billions of pesos worth of new equipment including two new airbus helicopters, 107 units Patrol Jeep 4x2 single cab, 349 units 125cc motorcyle, 5,000 units striker fired 9mm pistol 4,000 units striker fired 9mm pistol, 42 units 7.62mm MG3 light machine gun, 3,045 units waistcoat vest level 3A with upgrade plate level IV, 11,084 enhanced combat helmet, 124 units tactical radio and 48 Explosive Detection Dogs (EDDs).

They also acquired 11,245 units of bullet proof vest, 4,169 units waistcoat vest level IIA with 2 plates level IV, 133 units high frequency/ single side band manpack, 700 units rotary blade/ propelled wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone, 20 units mini bus and 2,000 units Taurus TS9 striker fired pistol.

PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said they are expecting the delivery of seven helicopters until next year.

These will be assigned to the PNP Special Action Force primarily to support internal security, law enforcement and public safety operations of PNP units in Mindanao and Visayas.

Albayalde said included in Duterte’s “wish list” during his administration is to provide a helicopter for each police regional office.

AFP’s capability

The AFP, on the other hand, has at least 150,000 men, majority of whom are deployed in Mindanao.

The Armed Forces are expecting the acquisition of new counter-terrorism equipment following Duterte’s approval in June 2018 of its P300-billion Horizon 2 Priority Projects under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Included in the Horizon 2 for the Philippine Army was the procurement of light tank, armored mortar carrier upgrade, M113 APC firepower upgrade, wheeled armored personnel carrier, 155mm self-propelled howitzer, medium multi-purpose assault weapon, Man Portable Air Defense System, Riverine operations equipment, 7.62mm sniper weapon system, 40mm revolver grenade launcher, mortars, combat engineering equipment, forward support equipment, light tactical vehicle, all terrain vehicle (ATV), tank gunnery simulator, unmanned aerial systems levels 1 to 3 - Elbit Systems THOR, Skylark 1, Skylark 3, and Hermes 450 UAS, CMO support systems and integrated logistics warehouse.

The Philippine Army on Sunday, July 14, also said they are expecting the shipment of Russian-made rocket propelled grenade-7V2 in the next few days.

It will replace the remaining M67 90MM recoiled rifles which were among those used by the troops during a clash with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao in 2018.

The Air Force is procuring multi-role fighter aircraft, multi-role fighter munitions system, air surveillance radar system, Ground Based Air Defense System (GBADS), combat utility helicopter, attack helicopter, command and control fixed wing aircraft (jet and turboprop), unmanned aerial systems (level 3), Bell 412 directional infrared counter measures, fa-50 alternate mission equipment, medium lift aircraft, C-130H with avionics upgrade and ILS, trainer aircraft and PAF aviation engineering equipment.

Aside from beefing up their arms strength, the PNP and AFP said they also have to strengthen their surveillance capability in order to thwart any possible terror threat.

They are also pushing for the amendment of the Human Security Act and the strict enforcement of the national ID system which could also boost the law enforcer’s surveillance capability and anti-terrorism and insurgency operations.

AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo cited Section 20 of the Human Security Act which mandates law enforcers to file charges against a suspected terrorist within three days of detention or else they will have to pay P500,000 for each day that the arrested person was detained.

MANILA. On June 28, 2017, the People's Republic of China turned over some 3,000 rifles with five million ammunition and 90 units sniper rifles with 800,000 ammunition as part of a military aid package. (File Photo)


Duterte did not specify the threats that the country is supposedly facing.

But to recall, the Roxas Night Market in Davao City was rocked by an explosion that killed at least 14 people and wounded 70 others in September 2016, two and a half months after Duterte assumed the presidency.

The attacks have escalated, with three suicide bombings carried out in the southern part of the country over the last six months.

On January 27, Sunday, two bombs detonated by an alleged couple of suicide bombers exploded in the middle of a Mass in Jolo Cathedral in Sulu.

A total of 23 people, mostly civilians, were killed while 109 others were wounded.

On July 31, at least 10 people were killed and nine others were wounded in a van explosion in Lamitan City in Basilan.

Also killed during the incident was the alleged Moroccan driver of the van who detonated the improvised explosive device (IED) that he was carrying inside the vehicle when he was intercepted in a military checkpoint.

The most alarming of the suicide bombing incidents, according to the police and military, targeted a military command post in Indanan, Sulu on June 28.

Eight persons, including three soldiers, were killed in the said attack which was perpetrated by two suicide bombers.

What concerns the police and the military is that one of the two perpetrators was confirmed to be a Filipino, a certain Norman Lasuca who was born and raised in Barangay Astorias in Jolo, Sulu.

Lasuca was the very first Filipino to take part in such a gruesome attack.

The suicide bombings were carried out despite the martial law in Mindanao.

Martial law was first declared in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, when Maute fighters laid siege to Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

They occupied major buildings, took hundreds of civilians hostages and engaged government forces in intermittent firefights that lasted five months.

Over 1,100 people, including military and police forces, civilians and members of the terror group, were killed. The conflict ravaged the city and displaced its residents.

Duterte announced the liberation of Marawi City on October 23, 2017. As of July 15, 2019, rehabilitation of the city was still ongoing.

Albayalde said the law enforcers should revisit, review and revise their strategy every now and then in order for them to keep up with the tactics of the terror groups.

“As we have said nag-iba ‘yung playing field dito right after the outcome of the results of the Sulu bombing. So kailangan talaga natin i-review. However para ma-prevent ‘yung mga ganyan klaseng pangyayaring terrorism (we need the) participation of the community and strengthening of our target hardening measures that includes intelligence monitoring,” he said.

On the part of the PNP, Albayalde said they are boosting the capability of the Anti-Cyber Group (ACG) in order to counter radicalization being done through the internet.

The police is also receiving assistance from their foreign counterparts particularly in the training of their personnel.

With only three years left in Duterte’s term, Arevalo and Albayalde have assured that both the PNP and the AFP were working closely with other government offices to prevent and stamp out terrorism.

They also stressed the important role that the people play in thwarting terror attacks. (SunStar Philippines)


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