PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday cited the need to boost police and military capabilities against terrorism, saying he senses “very dangerous times ahead.”
“I’d rather leave with a strong military and police equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” the president said in a speech during a farewell dinner for outgoing Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Manila.
Mr. Duterte issued the warning a week after twin bomb explosions in Sulu province in southern Philippines, where 8 people died and 12 more were injured.
“I hope that by the time I make my exit all would be in place,” said Mr. Duterte, whose six-year term ends in 2022. He added that his hands sweat just thinking of the potential for violence to spill out of Sulu and the Basilan islands in the Mindanao region.
The president noted that while he has bought valuable assets for the Armed Forces and police, much is needed to combat terrorism in the south.
The military has said the Abu Sayyaf group, an Islamic State-linked terrorist organization, could be behind the recent blasts.
The Abu Sayyaf is the most violent of the Islamic separatist groups operating in the Mindanao region and has used terror both for profit and to promote its jihadist agenda, according to the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center.
The group engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, assassinations and extortion.
Sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas Political Science Professor Marlon M. Villarin said it is possible that terrorist attacks may spill out of Mindanao.
“The president has made it clear that the Armed Forces is closely monitoring extremist movements,” University of Santo Tomas Political Science Professor Marlon M. Villarin said by telephone.
“If in the past their movements had been confined to Mindanao, now they are beginning to go up to the Visayas and southern part of the Tagalog region,” he added. — Arjay L. Balinbin