The ISIS attack in Marawi City on May 23, 2017, is a wake-up call. It has very serious implication for our national security. The incident should be treated differently from previous terror attacks that have been experienced by our nation. The incident has also displayed our weaknesses and vulnerabilities that were exploited by ISIS. These should serve as lessons for immediate adjustments in our national security strategies and programs.
The current ISIS initiative in Mindanao is said to have the same dynamics like in Syria and Iraq. It is an invasion to establish a caliphate, to overthrow our government, and control our territory. The ISIS has called for their fighters to come to the Philippines for this purpose. Foreign ISIS fighters who were killed by government forces in Marawi attested to this information. These two aspects are what made the Marawi incident different. We are no longer facing a group of bandits but a determined, organized and well supported international terrorist organization. They are more violent and ruthless. While the ISIS initiative is presently confined in Mindanao, it will not prevent ISIS from doing the same in the Visayas. Our weaknesses to cover our shores makes us vulnerable to terrorist attacks in the Visayas as exemplified in the latest armed incursion by Abu Sayaf in Bohol last April 11, 2017. It will not also prevent them from targeting Luzon where there are many high-value targets.
ISIS operation has included reprisal actions against governments involved in the counter-terrorism operations in Syria and Iraq. We should be careful of this and institute security measures in major cities around the country. While we have been alerted for possible armed incursions by ISIS groups or from a lone-wolf terrorist attack, we should also be wary of other methods of ISIS to launch a terror attack in our cities, especially when government alerts are raised and security measures are reinforced. The European terror experiences will tell us that terrorists have resorted to using other methods like trucks or cars for ramming attacks on innocent civilians in crowded places. To accomplish their plans, terrorists can improvise to kill and sow terror. They can also use gasoline, if that is what is readily available, to burn a target and suffocate innocent civilians just to sow fear in the heart of a city just like what a gunman did in Resort World Manila in Pasay City.
The Resort World Manila incident last May 30, 2017, is another wake-up call for authorities. Although it was not a terrorist-initiated incident, it has shown the inability of corporate security and local police to confront armed threats. It has also shown our weaknesses in our emergency management that could have saved the lives of 37 employees and guests of RWM. Despite elaborate security procedures, they failed to stop the gunman from entering the premises. Accounts showed the lack of the will to confront the gunman. Allowing the gunman to gain access into the building was their greatest mistake. A trained security personnel with counterterrorism training will not allow a gunman to gain entrance into targeted building and endanger the lives of innocent people. He will stop the gunman on his track at the first opportunity and at all cost. He will do this with no reservations and no fear. This is his vital and sacred task that he must carry out in order to prevent loss of lives. He will not give a chance to a terrorist or a gunman to accomplish his plans.
Many of our security personnel from private agencies are not competent for counter-terrorism. You can observe this in many of our malls and hotels. Try to observe the security personnel who check your cars as you enter their parking lots. And you will see how lax they are. Many of our malls, private and public establishments will fail in an honest to goodness Security Survey and Inspection Their guard and guard systems may seem to be deterrent, but they are all just a token for compliance. Many of them will fail in one simple security loophole – laxity of security personnel. This can be attributed to lack of training and experience. This is also a consequence of a security industry that is highly commercialized.
With this incident, private corporations should have more reason now to employ qualified security personnel who are trained, skilled, and have experience in counter-terrorism. Authorities should make this a requirement especially to private corporations and organizations that are considered critical infrastructures or high-value targets of terrorists.
We have seen our weaknesses and vulnerabilities in these two incidents. We have to do something to plug these security loopholes and strengthen our defenses and countermeasures. The threat of ISIS has made every country today to strengthen their internal security measures. Unfortunately, we have not done it. It is now imperative that our government must do the same if we want to be prepared and overcome this threat. We have to improve our intelligence capability to be able to prevent any terror attack from happening. We must be pro-active. Our response and interdiction capabilities should be enhanced and modernized to mitigate potential damages and deaths. An effective private-public partnership in crisis and emergency management must be emplaced to save lives. And lastly, we need new laws to empower our security and police forces and our first responders.
However, enacting laws for internal security is one of our greatest problems due to our political leaders in the opposition who are afraid of stringent measures for fear that these can become dictatorial powers and can be used against them. Counter-terrorism programs are beyond political lines, national security is paramount. The security of our people is more important than any political ideology. All political parties and citizens of the Republic must cooperate and unite against terrorism. No one should fear stringent internal security measures unless one is a terrorist or supporting a terrorist organization. Again, like in the war against illegal drugs, there is no middle ground. You are either for or against terrorism.
The Marawi and the RWM incidents are wake-up calls for authorities and for our political leaders to improve our counterterrorism programs and for Congress to enact an Internal Security Act. Let us not wait for more debilitating attacks to happen before we realized the importance of putting stringent internal security measures. Otherwise, Martial Law may just be the only option left to protect our nation from terrorism.
(Photos by Sputnik News & www.pinoyambisyoso.com)