Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Security situation remains vulnerable in Mindanao despite the neutralization of Maute terrorist leaders, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
For this reason, according to BGen. Edgard Arevalo, the extension of martial law in Marawi City and the entire Mindanao region is highly necessary.
Arevalo said the AFP believes there are remaining Maute followers scattered in different parts of the country.
“Sa ngayon po ang key leaders nila nakuha na po natin, subalit mayroon po silang remnants. We’re looking at roughly siguro mga 100 all in all,” Arevalo confirmed in an interview on Friday (December 7) on the program ‘Get It Straight with Daniel Razon’.
The AFP Spokesperson noted that the biggest threat to national security at this point is the presence of foreign terrorists who have established connections with the local terror group.
“Sa ngayon, Kuya Daniel, ang masasabi natin na isa pa rin sa pinakamahigpit na (binabantayan) ay ang foreign terrorists. Pagkatapos po ng kanilang kabiguan sa Iraq at sa iba pang bahagi ng Syria, ang kanila pong kagustuhan ngayon ay lumipat, magtayo ng isang probinsya sa iba pang bahagi ng mundo. At ang nakikita po nila ay ang Southeast Asia,” he explained.
“When you talk of Southeast Asia, Pilipinas and when you talk about Philippines, ang Mindanao parin po ang kanilang nakikita,” Arevalo added as he confirmed possible threats of the notorious Islamic State (IS) militants to the country.
Arevalo admits that one of the biggest challenges the military is facing now is how they will be able to cut the ties of local terrorist groups from those who are outside of the country.
He noted that the terrorists are actually taking advantage of the modern technology to execute their plans.
“May mga bangko po tayo. Hindi na po kasi talaga kagaya noong araw na (nilalagay sa) bag natin ang pera. Ngayon po may mga electronic means na po na to transfer money at yun po ang isa sa pamamaraan. At ang isa pa po sa challenge natin is yung advent ng social media. Yan po ang ginagamit nilang flat form upang sa gayon yung kanilang mga materyales, mga video, audio, at lahat po ng recruitment nila dinadaan po nila rito. And we admit that is quite difficult to check. Although we are trying our best to check this,” Arevalo explained when asked how local terrorists are able to get foreign funding.
Given the situation, the official believes it is high time that the country’s anti-terrorism law, specifically the Human Security Act of 2007, be amended to impose extension to the period of detention and surveillance of suspected terrorists to at least 30 days.
Arevalo noted that despite the implementation of martial law, they couldn’t get enough information from investigations because they need to release the person suspected to terrorism after a maximum period of three days. Otherwise, they will have to pay a huge amount of fine.
“Ang martial law po natin, ang malaking naitutulong po sa atin nyan on the grounds of terrorism pwede nating hulihin ang isang tao even without warrant but you can only hold them for 36 hrs or maximum of 72 hrs. So balik pa rin po tayo doon. And then (if you charged him) wrongly, (that’s) P500,000 (per day ang ibabayad sa suspect),” he noted.
Nevertheless, Arevalo said the AFP is closely coordinating with other concerned agencies to further establish and harden communication lines to fight terrorism.
Specifically, the military is working on what they call a ‘network centric warfare capability’ through the use of all possible platforms to win the ongoing electronic warfare which also involves combating fake news and disinformation as among the strategies of the enemies of the state. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Rey Pelayo)