THEY have been there but they have not done that.
That is, the much-hyped wiping out of threat groups, both communist and separatist, by the more recent occupants of Malacañang.
The hot air that the administrations of Aquino (2010 to 2016) and Arroyo (2001 to 2010, which included the unserved years of the ousted Estrada) were blowing apparently just proved that promises are made to be broken.
Take those big words wasted, especially on the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which during the Aquino and Arroyo administrations were supposed to have been stamped out, only for the group to flaunt its agenda of terror and banditry through lucrative kidnaps-for-ransom and horrific beheadings of Filipinos and foreigners.
Now, under the Duterte administration, the same promise was made last Sunday by Gen. Eduardo Año, the Armed Forces Chief of Staff.
Similar to timetables that accompanied those vows that went undelivered, Año gave a deadline—June 2017—for the elimination, once and for all, of the ASG, which, incidentally, is now affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
“They [the ASG terrorists]are no match to us,” said the military chief who also on Sunday ordered government troops to “operate at full speed, double or increase the operational tempo some more” during a visit to a military camp in Sulu province in southern Mindanao, where the ASG is most active.
One day later, on Monday, it was the turn of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Ronald de la Rosa, to echo the AFP chief.
De la Rosa, though, did not say outright that the Abu Sayyaf Group could be on the warpath in the country’s Central Visayas region, which is composed of the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Siquijor and the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue and Dumaguete.
“These were the favorite spots of the Abu Sayyaf. You should not go there. All the other parts [are]okay,” de la Rosa said, apparently referring to the group’s favored kidnap vantage points in the conflict-torn South and to the supposedly safe areas, including Central Visayas.
Surprisingly, the AFP also on Monday said it had “not seen any threat” hanging over the Central Visayas, but that it “encourages[s]everybody to be vigilant and report any suspicious person, object or circumstance so that the [military]can take immediate counter action.”
It is comforting to know that at least the police seemed to be, well, on top of the situation, but incredible that the Armed Forces of the Philippines did not have any idea what de la Rosa was talking about.
The AFP’s self-imposed deadline of making the Abu Sayyaf Group history by end-June this year, we suppose, still stands.
The AFP had better “coordinate” (the buzz word not only of the business types but also of the military kind) with the PNP, at least to assure the US Embassy in Manila that had warned of terrorist groups attempting to carry out kidnappings in Central Visayas, particularly Cebu and Bohol, two of the more popular destinations among local and foreign tourists.
Like de la Rosa, the embassy did not mention a date when the supposed kidnappings and other threats would take place.
A less cavalier response on the part of the AFP, beyond describing the Abu Sayyaf as not being a worthy opponent, will probably send the military back to earth, to be reminded that bragging about its unproved and unenviable record against the terrorist and criminal band is not the appropriate way of putting its money where its mouth is not.
If the military showed a bit of false modesty about what it can do against the Abu Sayyaf, then it could help prove that “[I]t’s [really]more fun in the Philippines.”
Chutzpah alone will not cut it for the AFP, as well as the police. They displayed it before but until now they have not presented peace-loving Filipinos with a really dead terrorist of note.
Anyway, June 2017 is just a date.