PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to support the budget for the hiring of additional 30,000 troops following the discovery of a new security threat in Mindanao which is “bigger than” the Marawi crisis.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Sen. Panfilo Lacson said on Wednesday that the President has asked their support to address the new security threat in Mindanao, which continues to under martial law until December 31.
The President summoned eight senators on Tuesday afternoon to brief them on the peace and order situation in the southern Philippines, as well as seek their support for the hiring of additional 20,000 soldiers and 10,000 policemen to run after local terrorist groups.
The President said he received reports that a new security threat has emerged in “three areas” in Mindanao. “If three new threats, (it’s) bigger than Marawi,” said Lacson, chairman of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs.
Drilon said the President briefed them on the new threats by the “ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria extremists) in the South and he was looking at a closer regional cooperation with neighboring countries particularly Indonesia.”
“In the President’s briefing, it appears to be serious. There’s a real threat. He informed us of that renewed threat because the SND (Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana) has requested for additional manpower and therefore there will be budgetary consideration,” Drilon said.
“And when it’s the CIC (Commander-in-Chief) who says may [there are]new threats we better believe him because he has many sources of intelligence information. We did not ask for details anymore. It’s enough for us to pledge support in terms of improving our security,” Lacson said.
Lacson said the senators were aware that the government forces battling the Maute extremists in Marawi could be “battle-weary”. “Kasi ang description nga ng President, they’re all bone-weary now. Parang pagod na pagod na [They already looked very tired].”
“Imagine more than 2 months na sila nakikipagbakbakan doon. Relyebuhan nga sila (They’ve been fighting for two months. They just took turns). But then they go back even after being wounded. They still volunteer to go back,” he said.
“Kailangan talaga ng fresh legs (There is really a need for fresh legs). Kaya sa legislation we can help by probably fast-tracking legislation maybe in budget to increase the troop ceiling. We’re talking here of something like 20,000 more troops for the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and around 10,000 for the PNP (Phil. National Police). Mga bata (All young),” Lacson said.