by Rommel C. Banlaoi
Source: Newsbreak, 31 January 2011 at http://www.newsbreak.ph/2011/01/31/terror-threat-gov%e2%80%99t-must-consult-not-insult/.
Despite the serious travel advisories from 7 foreign embassies and warning from a local terrorism think-tank that terrorist threats in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila, were imminent, the Philippine government downplayed those advisories and questioned the credibility of a think-tank to make warning. The military establishment even denied the clear and present danger of terrorist threat in the city, arguing that the information from which the travel advisories was based was raw and not yet validated.
While the government and the military may have their own reasons for denying the threat, the Makati bus bombing last January 25 aptly demonstrated that the terrorist threat was not imagined but real.
Causing 5 deaths and injuring at least 13 others, the Makati bus bombing occurred because the threat group with the great intent and increasing capabilities to carry out the bombing found the ripe opportunity to carry out their plans.
One fundamental principle in countering terrorism, political violence or even criminal violence is the urgent need not only to understand the intent and capabilities of threat groups but also the necessity to deny them any single opportunity to mount an attack.
While our law enforcement authorities may already have a grasp of the intent and capabilities of all enemies of the state whether from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), New People’s Army (NPA), lawless elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), rogue factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) or organized crime groups like the shadowy Al Khobar Group (AKG), Pentagon Gang and the like, knowing exactly when they will attack is extremely difficult as perpetrators of violence operate discreetly, carefully and patiently.
But the Makati bus bombing could have been prevented had the government taken the travel advisories seriously rather than contradict them. Instead of insulting a think tank on its capability to provide terrorist threat assessment, the government could have been more consulting.
The government could have also done some proactive actions not only through intensified intelligence operations in areas identified as targets but also through enhanced collaboration with all security stakeholders that include the local government, the community, the private sector, and the academe.
Securing the nation against threat groups is no longer the sole responsibility of the police and the military. Security is also an inherent responsibility of the local government, a corporate social responsibility of the private sector, and an integral aspect of responsible citizenship.
Gone are the days when the police and the military were the country’s sole security providers. Security has become so comprehensive beyond military sector and the security players have expanded beyond the police and military establishments.
To counter terrorist threats and other forms of violence whether political or criminal, the government has to champion the cause of security sector transformation not only in words but also in actions.
It means the government becoming more engaging with other security players from the private sector, local communities, and the academe. Rather than contract their voices, the government should listen and learn from them and make them truly part of an effective democratic governance, which has been proven as a strong antidote to terrorism and violence.
(The author is the Executive Director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and author of the book, Philippine Security in the Age of Terror published in 2010 in New York and London.)