THE Philippine military on Friday remains firmly opposed to creating any private armed group that would help thwart the ‘enemies of state’ planning to destabilize the government, its spokesperson said.
Creating private armed groups would later result in complications, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Restituto F. Padilla said in Filipino, during a briefing in Malacañang. They may later lose sight of what their initial goals were, Mr. Padilla added, referring to the Citizens’ National Guard (CNG), a group created to defend President Rodrigo R. Duterte against those plotting to weaken the government, which they called as ‘enemies of state.’
“You can trust the Armed Forces to do the right thing as stated in what the Constitution mandated us to do,” Mr. Padilla said.
The pro-Duterte group held its launch on Tuesday, an event that was attended by Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II and Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta, who clarified it was not a private army.
The group aims to protect the government from its perceived “enemies” including: ISIS-inspired terrorism, Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, drug cartels, seditious political opposition (which it dubbed as Yellowtards), and foreign intelligence agencies generating international support for regime change.
Mr. Padilla insisted that if certain groups want to help the government, he suggest “to do it the right way, the legal way,” emphasizing that these groups need not necessarily possess arms.
Mr. Padilla also made it clear that they do not have enough information on the possible involvement of communists and members of the political opposition regarding moves to destabilize the government.
“So far, it’s not only the opposition that is the only party involved here, so the Armed Forces also monitors armed groups,” he said. “The groups that are against government are not only individuals. And it may not be farfetched that one or two of them may be also assisting other groups that are against government.”
MARAWI SIEGE WILL END BEFORE ASEAN MEET
Mr. Padilla also assured that the Marawi siege will end before the ASEAN Summit in November begins, echoing an announcement by the new Army chief Maj. Gen. Rolando D. Bautista during the Philippine Army’s Change of Command on Thursday.
“We expect the siege won’t last longer until our hosting of the ASEAN,” Mr. Padilla said. “The declaration for the end of hostilities will come as soon as the last terrorist element or rebel in the area who is offering resistance has been dealt with.”
Some 40 to 50 armed terrorists are still holed up in a seven to eight-hectare area while other rebels are recruiting others in Iligan City, he explained.
The siege, which marked its 137th day on Friday, prompted President Rodrigo R. Duterte to declare martial law on Mindanao island, allowing authorities to monitor certain groups in Cotabato and Lanao who have hinted at joining the rebels.
Once the war ends, President Duterte may choose not to lift martial law immediately as clearing operations will be done, “which means to say that there are other threats in the island that we need to address.”
“We still have at least 200 buildings and facilities that have not been fully cleared of unexploded ordinance and IED,” he said.
Meanwhile, the rehabilitation of the Marawi City is still ongoing and evacuees can transfer to transitional shelter before Christmas. — Rosemarie A. Zamora