“THE Punisher,” if punisher he is, should exclude no lawless group from his avowed campaign to stamp out crime and criminality throughout the archipelago. Otherwise, incoming President Duterte will only be replicating the policy of selective justice of President Aquino.
The tunnel focus on the drug menace, to the exclusion of terrorism and insurgency, will not produce a more peaceful, orderly and law-abiding society if the new administration does not address the entire spectrum of lawlessness in the country.
This is the message borne home to us by the horrifying murder of another Canadian hostage by the Abu Sayyaf rebel group (ASG), and by the recurring incidents of raids and killings perpetrated by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Peace and order, we must realize, is indivisible. We can’t have sections of the country, like gated communities, where lawlessness is walled off for residents, while the rest of the populace are prey to the dangers of intimidation, extortion and bodily harm by lawless groups.
Is crime our biggest problem?
I thought at first that Mr. Duterte was overstating the problem of criminality in the country in order to highlight his toughness and alarm over the drug menace—so much so that it seemed that to him lawlessness is the biggest problem facing the nation, bigger than mass poverty, corruption, and inequality
But on second thought, I realized that Duterte’s uncompromising stance against crime and lawlessness represents an exceptional opportunity for the nation to stop crime that all citizens should support. The key is for him to widen his vision to place drug lords, terrorists, and insurgents in the crosshairs of his anti-crime program.
When Filipinos responded enthusiastically to DU30’s campaign rhetoric, they envisioned the entire spectrum of lawlessness being driven from pillar to post by law enforcement agencies.
Many thought that our new President could bring to a definitive end, by negotiation or by force of arms, Muslim separatism in Mindanao and communist insurgency in other parts of the country.
Test of effectiveness
The test of an anti-crime campaign is effectiveness. Rhetoric and programs mean nothing if law enforcers cannot do the job
We cannot doubt anymore that Islamic terrorism is a threat to peace and security in Mindanao, Basilan and Sulu. The perpetrators of violent incidents are Abu Sayyaf rebels, and they have declared their allegiance to the Islamic State, in the Middle East.
The communist insurgency is now four decades old, counting from the time the new Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) were formed with Chinese assistance. Many of their leaders have been captured or eliminated. Most have given up on the dream of overthrowing the government, as communism has retreated almost everywhere. Now, there is talk of new peace negotiations, a formal settlement, and even a coalition government with Mr. Duterte.
We know a lot about the drug menace because of the spotlight that the President-elect has cast on it. We know that the Philippines is now a transshipment point for the international drug trade. We also know that as many as 30 local governments and their top officials are involved in drugs. The trade is so lucrative that when Duterte boasted of a big bounty fund for the heads of drug lords, they raised in turn a handsome bounty for the assassination of Duterte and his designate as chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Chief Superintendent Roland de la Rosa.
Can our law enforcers cope?
The hard question we face is whether our national police, aided by the armed forces, is professionally ready to face down the triple challenge of drugs, terrorism and insurgency.
When Western Europe was inundated this year by Islamic terrorist attacks, experts suggested that European governments, Belgium especially, are fighting terrorists blindly; they do not have the capacity to subdue the menace.
Most of Europe’s security agencies do not cut it in the modern world of terrorism. In Western European countries, such agencies were set up to counter the KGB.
Against criminals and subversives, these agencies cannot cope. What is needed is an organization based on community policing that is devoted to recruiting informers and running agents within subversive groups.
For this reason, some have recommended that European governments should adopt something similar to Britain’s Special Branch and Special Air Service (SAS), which have been effective in fighting the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and terrorism, and have served as models by many countries.
Without Special Branch, UK security forces are blind. In the spectrum of crime, subversion is similar to ordinary criminality, but often rooted in families, clans, and political, ethnic or religious groups—as the UK discovered in Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and Ireland.
A second security unit that we can adopt from the British is the Special Air Service ( SAS), a specialist regiment of the British army that is trained in commando techniques of warfare and used in clandestine operations (especially against terrorist groups).
The PNP’s Special Action Force (SAF) was formed along the lines of the SAS.
Martial law in Mindanao?
In a media interview, incoming PNP Chief de la Rosa said this week that he supports proposals to declare Martial Law in certain parts of Mindanao, to stop the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
De la Rosa disclosed no plan to stop the bandit group. Instead, he just threw his support behind the efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He vowed to discuss strategies with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the incoming AFP chief of staff, once their appointments become official.
Martial law? Plainly, the idea has not been subjected to serious strategic study.
This shows us the state of readiness of our police and security forces.