BAGUIO CITY: The former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the Philippines on Friday lauded the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in handling the crisis in Mindanao.
Stephen Cutler, who served in the FBI while assigned in the Philippines for five years, said activities being undertaken by the government to stop the terrorist activities of the Maute group in Marawi are doing “fairly well.”
“I think they are doing fairly well. I am actually very pleased with a lot of work that’s being done,” Cutler said during an interview on Friday. “I have a great deal of faith in the AFP and the PNP and they are doing the right thing by protecting innocent lives.”
On a tactical perspective, from the point of view of an outsider, Cutler believes the AFP and PNP are doing a much better job of working together.
“What I call the blue suits and the green suits, it used to be that they would not even talk to each other. That’s not the case these days,” he said, adding the two agencies are doing a much better work of exchanging tactical information and collaborating in their attacks.
He added the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) can also have program exchanges “because national security isn’t clearly divided anymore into military operation versus civilian operations.”
“We need to make sure that our national security entities are working together in a joint environment and that the rules and policies set up in the national, regional and local levels is encouraged to network together,” he said.
Cutler was one of the speakers in the “Awareness is the Best Deterrence” conference organized by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) attended by representatives from local government units, law enforcement, schools and security officers.
During his stint here, Cutler headed the investigative work and other programs of the FBI in all regions of the country.
To better assure the country’s security, he said the Philippines “must have a very good relationship with its Association of Southeast Asian Nations members but even beyond Asean and around the world” through your attaches and consulates in foreign countries.
“There is a need to establish much better contacts and exchanges of information from the Philippines to those nations as well as from those nations to the Philippines so that we can identify foreign fighters and beyond the foreign fighters, the foreign influences,” he said.
He added that certain changes must be undertaken with the way the Bureau of Customs Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, including the Anti-money laundering council work.
“This will strengthen our ability to exchange information in the international arena.”
He said the country must also refocus on strengthening its capabilities in handling large-scale terrorist acts, thus the need to improve armaments and equipment.
Cutler is now an active director of the Guide Meridian, a Philippine technology company focused on information and data gathering and usage.
He also lauded Baguio and HRAB for thinking global. “This conference that deals with awareness of terrorism issues, I think they’ve done a pretty good job of awareness and prep on natural disasters but what we have not done a really good job on yet is developing an awareness of preparation techniques on man-made disasters like the Resorts World disasters and the Marawi issue,” he said.