Martial law ‘is helping us fight terrorism more effectively’

Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. (AP)
Updated 10 December 2018
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Martial law ‘is helping us fight terrorism more effectively’

  • Filipino congress asked to extend reign of martial law on the troubled island a third time
  • Philippines defense secretary says martial law in Mindanao has curtailed terrorist capabilities

MANILA: Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has defended his recommendation to extend the implementation of martial law on Mindanao island for another year, saying it is the only way to quell terrorism in the country. 

“National security is contingent on being able to protect people from threats,” said Lorenzana, who acknowledged that the Philippines continues to face internal security issues thanks to communist insurgencies and violent extremism.

He was speaking at a forum organized by the Filipino Stratbase ADR Institute for Strategic and International Studies in Makati on the outskirts of the Filipino capital, Manila.

On Monday, Lorenzana, a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and other top security officials briefed senators in a closed-door meeting on the situation in Mindanao before putting forth the recommendation.

The lawmakers, however, are still divided on the issue.

“The Duterte administration is putting in place a comprehensive strategy to address terrorism and violent extremism,” he said, adding that the five-month armed conflict waged by security forces against ISIL last year in Marawi, the capital of one of the Philippine’s several provinces, would not happen again.

President Rodrigo Duterte first imposed martial law when the Marawi siege broke out. After a 60-day grace period, the president asked for a five-month extension, which was granted by congress.

Even after the president declared Marawi liberated from terrorists in October 2017, he had made a second request to extend martial law at the time.

Lorenzana said the military conducted ground operations against the ISIL-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and pro-ISIL group Dawlah Islamiya. He went as far as saying that the “significant success” they have had countering such groups was down to declaring martial law on the island in the first place.

“The capabilities of threat groups have been significantly curtailed since there has been less threat-initiated violence and fewer kidnappings,” said Lorenzana in Friday’s forum. “Several guerrilla fronts were cleared and firearms recovered. Vital infrastructure was secured and government approval rates have since gone up.”

He added that martial law enabled law enforcement agencies, local officials and the military to coordinate, collaborate and communicate efficiently and effectively. 

Lorenzana told reporters that putting the island under martial law would help address terrorism in the whole of the southern Philippines, adding that they would also deploy an entire military division to the province of Jolo, Sulu to address problems in and around the area.

"If our laws were stricter, we could have done without martial law,” he said, adding that it should always be a last resort for governments.

Lorenzana told reporters that between five and 10 expat extremists renowned for their bomb-making skills are believed to have entered the country from the south. 

“The foreign extremists don’t look Arab,” he said. “They are more likely Asians, particularly from Malaysia and Indonesia, who have mingled with the local terror groups.”

The AFP has expressed confidence that the recommendation would surpass any legal scrutiny.

“We leave the final decision to the discretion of lawmakers,” said Noel Detoyato, chief of the AFP public affairs.


Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

Updated 11 min 43 sec ago
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Shanahan drops bid to lead Pentagon, citing ‘painful’ past

WASHINGTON: After months of unexplained delays, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down Tuesday before his formal nomination ever went to the Senate, citing a “painful” family situation that would hurt his children and reopen “wounds we have worked years to heal.”
President Donald Trump announced Shanahan’s departure in a tweet, and said that Army Secretary Mark Esper would be the new acting Pentagon chief.
“It is unfortunate that a painful and deeply personal family situation from long ago is being dredged up and painted in an incomplete and therefore misleading way in the course of this process,” Shanahan said in a statement. “I believe my continuing in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal. Ultimately, their safety and well-being is my highest priority.”
The acting defense secretary did not provide specifics about the family situation but media outlets including The Washington Post and USA Today published extensive reports Tuesday about circumstances surrounding his 2011 divorce shortly before Trump tweeted that Shanahan’s nomination would not go forward.
In his statement, Shanahan said he asked to be withdrawn from the nomination process and he resigned from his previous post as deputy defense secretary. He said he would work on an “appropriate transition” but it wasn’t clear how quickly he will leave the job.
Defense officials said that leaders are trying to decide when Esper would take over the job. Officials were meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss transition plans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss internal deliberations.
In his tweet, Trump simply said that Shanahan had done “a wonderful job” but would step aside to “devote more time to his family.”
And, in noting Esper’s move, Trump added, “I know Mark, and have no doubt he will do a fantastic job!“
The post atop the Pentagon has not been filled permanently since Gen. James Mattis retired in January following policy differences with Trump.
Trump announced in May that he would nominate Shanahan but the formal nomination process in the Senate had been inexplicably delayed.
Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since Jan. 1, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position.
His prospects for confirmation have been spotty due in large part to questions about his lengthy work as former Boeing executive and persistent questions about possible conflicts of interest.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General cleared Shanahan of any wrongdoing in connection with accusations he had shown favoritism toward Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary, while disparaging Boeing competitors.
In Shanahan’s tenure at the department he’s had to deal with a wide array of international hotspots, ranging from missile launches by North Korea to the sudden shift of military ships and aircraft to the Middle East to deal with potential threats from Iran.
Shanahan, 56, had extensive of experience in the defense industry but little in government. In more than four months as the acting secretary, he focused on implementing the national defense strategy that was developed during Mattis’ tenure and emphasizes a shift from the resources and tactics required to fight small wars against extremist groups to what Shanahan calls “great power” competition with China and Russia.