THE first time we were apprised that there are foreign terrorist fighters in the county, it was the Indonesian defense minister who informed us.
Now, we have been given the news that 89 foreign terrorist fighters are already in different areas of Mindanao. This piece of information was obtained by the Kyodo News agency of Japan. Its source of the intelligence report was not disclosed.
In lightof this disturbing information, we are constrained to ask: Where is our National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA)? And what is it doing? What does it have to contribute and say about this highly disturbing information? Can it confirm or deny the rumor?
We ask these questions in all seriousness because NICA under the leadership of Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. is supposed to be the nation’s central source of intelligence on all matters concerning the security of the nation, and that it is supposed to collate all intelligence information, and then advise the top leadership of our civilian government and the Armed Forces on the threats to national security.
Ever since the crisis in Marawi City started on May 23, and President Rodrigo Duterte proclaimed martial law in all of Mindanao, and the south was plunged into prolonged strife, NICA and our top intelligence officials have been unusually silent. They appear to be mere spectators of what is going on, and they see nothing.
These questions must be asked, because the last time NICA was in the news was in October last year. At the time, it was being lambasted by some of the republic’s senators for using a fake site as the source for an allegedly faulty report to the Senate.
At the time, Sen. Richard Gordon remarked, “If this is the state of intelligence in the country, we really are in trouble”. Now here we are in deep trouble.
In his remarks at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on October 17, Gordon said that NICA had given the Senate panel a faulty “faulty” intelligence report in the previous hearing. NICA had said in the report that there was a Chinese missile silo or launch facility under the mountains of Zambales, near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.
It turned out that the information came from a “satirical and entertainment” website, according to Gordon.
Explaining, he said: “When we got this, it had a cover document that said confidential. This was submitted to us by the NICA… When we researched the website, this is what it contains, this specific article which was submitted to us, it’s partly for satirical and entertainment purposes.”
The website is called “A New Philippines.” On July 25, 2016, it posted a fake news story entitled “Breaking story: Hidden Chinese military base with alleged missile silos found in Zambales,” with a photo of the supposed military base.
Gordon and other senators questioned the poor intelligence skills and output of NICA, considering it has P700 million in funds, which now are under threat of being cut to nothing.
NICA Director General Rodolfo Arsaga, it appears, is director and general of nothing. Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III was indubitably correct when he said the NICA chief should be fired.
The shortcomings of NICA coupled with the mysterious absence of the national security adviser rise in gravity as the fighting in Mindanao has gotten more complicated.
If NICA is in the dark about the situation in the south, the nation has much to worry about indeed.
Some people must explain.