Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

From left, Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, Philippines' Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen share a moment before a ministerial roundtable at the 17th International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-la Dialogue, an annual defense and security forum in Asia, in Singapore on June 3. (AP Photo)
Updated 05 June 2018

Philippines wages high-tech war on terror ‘bad guys’

  • Philippines defense department is boosting its high-tech capabilities to fight terrorism.
  • Facial-recognition technology and bigger drones are among sophisticated tech systems targeting extremists.

MANILA: The Philippines is turning to high-tech defense systems including facial-recognition software and bigger drones to combat terrorism.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has revealed government plans to boost the country’s technological capabilities as part of counterterrorism efforts.

“We are looking at facial-recognition software so that we can easily track down the bad guys,” Lorenzana said in an interview on Tuesday.

The Philippines army has bought ScanEagle drones from the US for use in low-altitude surveillance. US forces stationed in Mindanao are also using small drones with powerful signaling capabilities, he said.

“When our order for bigger drones arrives, it will improve our intelligence capabilities,” he said.

Lorenzana said extremists were also using sophisticated technologies to spread propaganda and gain an advantage in clashes with government forces.

The defense chief said that during the five-month battle in Marawi last year, militants had used drones, which were shot down by Philippine troops.

Terrorists were using technology for recruitment, to plan their movements and to send money.

“During the Marawi siege, my people recommended that we shut down the Internet there because the Mautes inside were sending pictures and messages outside,” he said, referring to the Daesh-inspired group that staged the attack.

Lorenzana agreed that intelligence capabilities “are only as good as the people who manage them and who interpret the data.

“We still need human intelligence, people who go down and see things on the ground with their own eyes and feel what’s happening on the ground so they can report to headquarters,” he said.

The interview with Lorenzana took place in Singapore on the sidelines of the 17th Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s leading defense summit.

International security consultant Stephen Cutler praised the Philippine defense department’s plan to upgrade its tech capabilities.

Facial-recognition systems were being used in other countries and were highly effective, he said.

“Say they get pictures of these (militants) with Daesh flags. Even if they’re wearing a bandana across their nose and lower face, facial recognition could theoretically allow us (to identify them). If those guys have already been arrested, we could run a still photo of that camp in the picture (or video) and figure out who’s in the camp.”

Cutler was chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation operations in the Philippines for five years before retiring after a 22-year career in FBI.

He warned that the government had to establish trust among people that its technology was not being abused.

“That would demand strong adherence to data privacy law. It will demand proven ethical behavior on the part of the government.

“This is an argument that has gone on in every nation around the world that is using this (technology),” he said.


LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

Updated 47 min 27 sec ago

LIVE: Davos 2020 Day One - Thunberg slams elites, Trump hails US economic rebound

  • Discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.
  • Environment and climate issues on agenda, but Iran and Lebanon expected to feature heavily

The World Economic Forum 2020 started on Tuesday in Davos in Switzerland. Greta Thunberg kicked off the three day forum in a panel discussion on Sustainable Path towards a Common Future.

There will be discussion panels featuring a number of high profile figures from the political, business and civil world.

They will discuss a wide range of subjects including the environment and climate issues, but Iran and Lebanon are expected to feature heavily.

Follow Arab News’ coverage below

13:45 - Bollywood superstar and mental health ambassador Deepika Padukone has a very honest and inspiring conversation with World Health Organization's director-general about her own experiences with mental illness and how the stigma surrounding it can be ended...

In 2017, Padukone spoke vividly about her struggle with depression and the stigma that surrounded it. She also described how she decided to speak out, so others wouldn't have to suffer in the same way she did. Watch the Crystal Awardee speaking earlier at Davos:

13:00 - Saudi Arabia's Minister for Communications and IT Abdullah Al-Swaha has been speaking on a panel about the strategic outlook for Middle East economies. He makes the salient point that if countries want their economies to grow, they must focus on youth, technology and the empowerment of women...

11:30 - US President Donald Trump reverted to his role as salesman Tuesday, telling a gathering of the world's top businessmen in the Swiss Alps that he's led a “spectacular” turnaround of the US economy and encouraged them to invest in America.

He reminded the audience that when he spoke here two years ago, early in his presidency, “I told you that we had launched the great American comeback."

“Today I’m proud to declare the United States is in the midst of an economic boom, the likes of which the world has never seen before,” the president said.

Read more of the US President's address at Davos here: Trump lauds US economy in Davos, says little on climate woes

11:00 - Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson delivered a special message from Pope Francis. He called on everyone to remember that we are all members of one human family, and that we have a moral obligation to care for one another.

And he asked for a renewed ethical approach in the forthcoming discussions, including in the discipline of economics.

10:30 - The historian Yuval Noah Harari struck a pessimistic note at the opening of this session on the technology arms race. 

"On the most shallow level it could be a repeat of the 19thcentury industrial revolution, when the leaders had the chance to dominate the world economically and politically... I understand the current arms race as an imperial arms race... You don't need to send the soldiers in if you have all the data on a country," says Harari.

10:00 - In one of the first sessions of the WEF, Greta Thunberg said the voices of science and youth need to be at the center of the conversations on environment and future during “Forging a Sustainable Path towards a Common Future” panel discussion. 

Read more on her speech hereThunberg condemns climate inaction as Trump joins Davos