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‘Very dangerous times ahead’

Duterte batting for well-equipped military, police

President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to support his administration to strengthen the Armed Forces in preparation for “very dangerous times” ahead for the country.

Speaking to members of the 17th Congress, the President bared he plans to finish his term with a strong and well-equipped Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police.

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“I hope that by the time I make my exit, everything is there. I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president. I don’t know who. And I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police… equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” Duterte said in his speech during the appreciation dinner for outgoing House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“I see very dangerous times ahead. And I hope that we will be able to contain whatever there is,” he added.

This developed as security forces confirmed Wednesday the first Filipino “suicide bomber” attack in the country, warning Islamic militants were grooming other local prospects for more such actions in the future.

Norman Lasuca and one other yet to be identified suspect blew themselves up outside a military camp on the remote southern island of Jolo on June 28 in explosions that also killed three soldiers and two civilians, authorities said.

“We can now confirm... the incidence of the first suicide bombing in the Philippines, perpetrated by a Filipino in the person of Norman Lasuca,” military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo told a news conference.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack that marked a serious escalation of militancy driven by the influence of IS in Southeast Asia.

The decades-old Islamist insurgency in the south has killed tens of thousands, but suicide attacks have been used extremely rarely, with foreign fighters blamed for the few that have been carried out.

The President said he could already feel his palms “sweating” just thinking of possible terrorist attacks.

“So, I must be prepared. And I already bought what we need, but there are still a few things that I must have for my Armed Forces and the police,” the President continued.

Stressing the need to increase the capabilities of the Armed Forces and ensure their good financial standing, Duterte then asked the lawmakers to push for measures that will supply the country’s troops with new weapons and tools to neutralize any looming hostile forces.

“I hope that Congress would tide us over to complete the instruments that we need in dealing especially with terrorism,” Duterte said.

Almost two weeks ago, eight people were killed, including three soldiers and two suspected bombers, in twin blasts near a military camp in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan town, Sulu.

The region’s military commander gave a sombre outlook.

“Based on our monitoring, they [IS militants] are training others,” Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told reporters.

“The probability is high,” Sobejana said when asked about the likelihood of future suicide attacks by local militants.

He said suicide bomber recruits were training in the south of the mainly Catholic country where IS-linked outfits operate.

Police spokesman Bernard Banac said the Jolo bombing was “organized by the Abu Sayyaf group”—Filipino militants engaged in kidnappings and bombings and who look to IS as a “model”.

A local woman and member of Jolo’s dominant Tausug ethnic group claimed one of the attackers was her son, allowing the authorities to match their DNA samples.

“The security environment in our country has changed,” Arevalo said, requiring military and police “adjustments in techniques, tactics and procedures.”

“Before, we only heard of IED (improvised explosive device) attacks, remote-controlled attacks but this time an individual blew himself up as a full-fledged suicide bomber.”

A day earlier, Duterte presided over a command conference with military and police officials.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the discussion focused mainly on the usual updates coming from the military and police and “some modernization projects.”

In his previous speeches, the President has voiced his commitment to the AFP Modernization Program.

Under the program, the government acquired an Air Defense Radar System and an FA-50PH flight simulator earlier this year. The military is also expecting delivery of six A-29B Super Tucano aircraft.

Duterte also wants to buy more utility vehicles, drones, and other command and control fixed-wing aircraft.

The AFP Modernization Program is a three-part programs. The first was implemented from 2013 to 2017; the second, from 2018 to 2022; and the third, from 2023 to 2028.

The June 28 attack came months after explosions described by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as a “suicide bombing” killed 21 people in Jolo’s Catholic cathedral in January.

Banac, the police spokesman, said authorities had no way of knowing whether the feet of a man and a woman recovered after that attack belonged to Filipinos or foreigners.

In July last year, an explosives-laden van driven by a Moroccan man killed 11, including the driver, when it blew up at a security checkpoint on the southern island of Basilan.

“The Moroccan... was the first suicide bomber but a lot has happened since then. In a way, they have levelled up and are now using our locals for suicide bombings,” Sobejana said Wednesday. With AFP

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Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Armed Forces of the Philippines , Philippine National Police , Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
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