ROUGH CUTS| Lessons worth learning

WE SHARE the elation of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana over the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to have the Armed Forces intelligence fund budget for 2018 increased. This, according to Lorenzana, will allow the enhancement of the military’s intelligence gathering capability.

We also admire the Defense Chief for his humility to admit that the eruption of the Marawi war with the extremist group led by the Maute siblings has taught the military a lot of lessons. It is unusual for the chief of the Defense Department to admit that the military still needs more training in urban warfare.

Our take on this is that the weakness is not on the ability to gather and interprete information that could lead to the exposure of certain threats by anti-government groups but on the manner with which the state ensures that the people in the community give their all-out trust to the security agents whichever group he is working with in the Armed Forces.

The military and all other state and security forces should have long realized that prevention of radicalization and eventually extremism is not achievable by the government alone. Families and community leaders are best positioned to identify early who are those at risk of being lured into joining such movement.

Hence, we believe that primordial is a shift in the military’s traditional strategy of drawing out relevant information from its most logical sources. And with the additional budget for intelligence operation in 2018 the Armed Forces must now start focusing on empowering and enabling civil societies and communities.

We are certain that this is the case in Marawi City. It is possible that the local community, its leaders in politics, socio-civic oranizations, and even those of the religious sector, Muslim and Christian alike,  may have been aware, or to say the least, suspicious of the activities of the Maute brothers and their followers. However, none dared to report to government state and security forces in details what the ISIS-influenced local terrorists were doing.

How can the wholesale procurement of high-powered firearms and ammunitions, digging of tunnels in the city proper, recruitment and training activities, depositing the firearms and ammunition in strategic places inside the city proper, stocking of food items and water, designing of house construction escaped notice by the local officials and community members? That is beyond one’s imagination.

Clearly, we have reason to believe that there is wisdom in the thought postulated by long-time journalist and author Patricio P. Diaz in his book Understanding Mindanao Conflict that “non-rebel leaders and those in government have a different kind of ambivalence. They work for the government but they synpathize with the Moro Front rebellion. To the government they owe their position of power and influence and socio-economic security; to the rebels, they are related by blood and brotherhood in Islam.”

We are hoping that as the Defense chief will be discussing with his team in the Armed Forces ways of improving the intelligence gathering capabilities of the military, he will not forget to inquire into why the community leaders and members have not been engaged or why they are reluctant in taking important role in helping government counter the threat of terrorism and other forms of serious anti-establishment actions.

In fact there were talks that some military or police assets have gone into illgal activities instead of their committed responsibilities because after the utilization of their services the expected support from their handlers in the military hardly comes. Some even went to the extent of claiming that if it comes at all it is being reduced to amounts far smaller than what were agreed.

Again this is one issue that is worth giving serious thought. Those who are in the ground gathering information might be tempted to do a 360 degree turn-around. Instead of sharing information they gather from sources tied with the enemies of the state may end up feeding the enemies instead of information about the activities of state security forces.

Who did not hear of that interview of a Moro religious leader who claimed that the Maute group has inside information of the movement of the military fighting them in Marawi?

That is food for thought of the Armed Forces.

Posted in Opinion