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The battle against the COVID-19 pandemic has taken most of the time, resources, and energy of the government, and much has been written about the exasperation of citizens with the seeming lack of cohesion and unified action of authorities to mitigate the effects of the health emergency. In a move that is seen more as a panic reaction rather than as part of a strategic plan, the government has deployed the military and police to the frontlines, literally, to carry out its major strategy to address the health crisis: for people to practice social or physical distancing.
Currently, the country has a National Security Policy and Strategy (NSPS) that very few in the government and the private sector know about. The document fails to provide guidance and foresight in light of crisis and hazardous situations. This is a major factor on how the government now responds to the COVID-19 pandemic issue: the government offers no clear strategy on how to get out of this crisis.
Last October, a series of strong earthquakes hit Central Mindanao (Region XI, Region XII and BARMM), killing and injuring people, displacing thousands of residents, and damaging and/or destroying thousands of structures. According to the group Save the Children, more than 3 million school-aged children were affected, with more than 180 classrooms completely destroyed. Kidapawan City, Davao, and Cotabato are among the areas that are reported to have incurred major damage in infrastructure.
Security Sector, according to the United Nations, is a broad term often used to describe the structures, institutions, and personnel responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a country. Security institutions include defense, law enforcement, corrections, intelligence services, border management, customs, elements of the judicial sector, management and oversight bodies, and other non-state actors and civil society groups.
Politics is swayed by the tempo and spirit of the times. Administrations in power, no matter how visionary, would always be compelled to act on the demands of the present. The Duterte administration, at the beginning of its term, presented itself as a cut different from past governments. The rhetoric of pursuing an “independent foreign policy” caught the attention of many, critics and supporters alike. Midway in its term, the “independence” of the country’s foreign policy remains contested.
The Myanmar Colonel was smiling as he asked me this publicly -- it was an earnest question. Majority of the Myanmar Tatmadaw (military and police) present in the gathering are supporters of President Duterte, or at least they approve of what he’s doing as regards peace and order. I answered, “I didn’t vote for him, but he was voted by our people. So, he is my President.” The subtext of my answer is that democracy, imperfect as it is, is still my chosen political system for the Philippines. The officers nodded approvingly, including the Major General in front. Myanmar is in its beginning journey towards democratization; they look at the Philippines for lessons.
A few years ago, a 16-year-old boy was killed in an armed encounter. UNICEF called to task both the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) and the military for violating the rights of the child -- the NPA for recruiting him and the military for shooting him. Explaining its side, the military said that in a firefight, the general rule to survive is to neutralize anyone holding a weapon in a firing position. In the mayhem of an armed encounter, differentiating if the opponent is a child or an adult, especially if he is firing at you, is very difficult.
The two major issues confronting Southeast Asia today are (a) the dispute between and among claimant states for the control of resources in the South China Sea and (b) the rising threat of armed extremist groups. These two issues are the major stimulus for the military buildup happening in the region today.
Two years into the Duterte administration, trepidations on the fate of the peace process continue. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the political translation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in 2014, hangs in the balance. This week, the Bicameral Committee starts deliberation on the Senate and House version of the BBL.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) effort to reform, post-1986, was largely fueled by fear of political adventurism of the military akin to...