PRESIDENT-ELECT Rodrigo Duterte won the May 9 elections on the promise of battling criminality and corruption and ending these in 3 to 6 months. But standing on the peace and order platform is tricky considering how pervasive criminal and corrupt acts are. Still, the Duterte camp is adamant that the new admin can do it. Yet being on the outside looking in is different from being an insider. An outsider cannot see the magnitude of the problem like an insider can.

Here's one development that gives the incoming administration a glimpse of the challenges that lie ahead for it, specifically on the maintenance of peace and order. The terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, which previously aligned itself with Osama bin Laden's Al Qaida network and which now claims to be with the Islamic State (also called Isis), has beheaded two Canadian nationals that it abducted earlier and may behead more. It is still holding hostage a Norwegian and a Filipina.

Last Monday, Abu Sayyaf bandits beheaded Canadian Robert Hall in Sulu and reports say that the terrorist group's spokesperson, Abu Raami, had claimed that the killing was for Duterte. Of course, the real reason for the act was the failure of Hall's family and the Canadian government to pay the ransom but the mention of Duterte could be taken as a dare for the new administration. Will all its posturing be made empty by the Abu Sayyaf?

By talking with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Duterte administration will no longer have to deal directly with the armed struggle waged primarily by the New People's Army, the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It also looks like Duterte is not planning to scuttle the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), momentarily eliminating the group's military arm from the equation.

But even if the incoming administration will not be battling the NPA and the MILF, dealing with the Abu Sayyaf alone would already be a challenge. Despite the all-out offensives launched by previous administrations, with the help of American advisers and equipment, this terrorist group has survived. Among the reasons for that is the nature of the “war” it is waging and the terrain. I don't think the Duterte administration would easily succeed in battling the Abu Sayyaf while the others failed.

After Hall was beheaded, Duterte's designated spokesperson Salvador Panelo immediately issued a disclaimer. He said that we are still under the administration of President Noynoy Aquino, who will end his term on June 30. Meaning that the beheading is still the responsibility of the Aquino administration. Panelo may be right, but for how long can the incoming administration waive responsibility?

The biggest problem for the Duterte camp is that it heaped upon itself tons of expectations and succeeded in projecting an image of a superhero eagerly waiting to wipe out the country's criminals once given the chance. But as they say, reality bites. What would happen, for example, if the Abu Sayyaf would be able to continue spreading terror in Mindanao even under the new dispensation? That would crack the crime buster image that the incoming government is currently shaping.

Everybody will be watching how the next administration will deal with the Abu Sayyaf and other terrorist groups. The hope is that it would succeed in wiping out the terrorist threat. The reality however is that its failed moves would be magnified and ranged against the promise to wipe out criminality in the country.

( twitter: @khanwens)