Not the right person for the job
The Armed Forces of the Philippines was about to celebrate their victory for successfully containing Islamic terrorists attempt to wrest control of Marawi City, but suddenly was aborted by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s unauthorized invitation for the US Special Forces to help quell the Maute and ISIS siege. The defeat of the terrorists was anticipated, and all that was awaited was the announcement of AFP spokesman, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, to declare the operation as officially over.
The entry of the US melted fast the euphoria that the administration was about to embark an independent foreign policy. The unauthorized invitation carried deeper implications on our capacity to defend ourselves and to define our own foreign policy. In no moment did the rebels manage to stop the advance of our troops, except for the noise made by the motley Manila-based opposition. The rest of the Filipino people, including the residents in the conflict zone, openly supported President Duterte with the soldiers in the field high in spirit after crushing the enemy.
The Yellows are so desperate in wanting to discredit martial law for fear that if the President succeeds in neutralizing the Maute and ISIS, that could politically marginalize them. Even if National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon assured that there would no US boots on the ground, that did not matter because the patriotic fervor of our soldiers to defend the country has somewhat been presented by Lorenzana as false. It was illogical and humiliating for us to seek US assistance when everybody knows it is deeply mired in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is high time for President Duterte to replace Delfin Lorenzana as his secretary of National Defense. Lorenzana is not only his own man, but proved to be disloyal and untrustworthy. He should be charged for leaking confidential information that has a destabilizing effect to the government and for usurping the power of the President without the courtesy of informing him. Lorenzana’s conduct clearly shows he is serving the interest of the US. He made a mockery of the President’s faith in our soldiers’ capacity to quell any rebellion or terrorist attack. To recall, President Marcos, even at the height of the communist and Muslim secessionist rebellion, did not request for US assistance. On the contrary, the US purposely withheld the delivery of military supplies under the Military Assistance Agreement.
Even if a military alliance exists between the Philippines and the US, the decision to invite allied troops to participate in combat operations still requires the approval of the President. Like the power to impose martial law, that authority is one that cannot be delegated to anybody, not even to Congress, because such has the consequence of impinging on our national sovereignty. The President is the only person who can implement an executive agreement under the Mutual Defense Treaty. The Secretary of National Defense does not possess that mandate.
If Lorenzana believes martial law was not necessary to quell the Maute and ISIS siege, as the principal adviser on security matters, he should have addressed his assessment directly to the President. If the President disagrees, he should be honest and brave enough to tell him that. Lorenzana committed serious acts of disloyalty and betrayal to the Republic. The Supreme Court, which is presided by a partisan Chief Justice who was appointed by an ewan ko President, could well capitalize the leaked information to discredit President Duterte much that it could divide the general public and cause demoralization in the ranks of our soldiers.
Thus, when the President said “nag mukha siyang tanga” when he came to know that US special forces are already operating and providing technical support our troops in Marawi City, he confirmed the truth that his secretary of defense is not his own man. The unauthorized invitation is just one degree short of intervention because it did not have the approval of the President.
Maybe it is not fair for us to say that 50 percent of our soldiers killed in Marawi was caused by “friendly fire.” But rumors abound that the 11 soldiers died when our own aircraft dropped their bombs straight to the position of our ground troops as pinpointed by aerial surveillance. If it can be verified that US P-3 Orion and drones were operating to locate enemy positions, then we have a serious problem similar to what is happening in Syria where US continue to play a double-faced game of fighting Islamic terrorism but is in fact supporting them. Some even entertain the belief it was not an accident.
There is much doubt about the role of the US in the worldwide fight against terrorism. Duterte himself witnessed that when, as mayor of Davao City, he was barred from investigating an injured CIA operative suspected of supplying bombs for the Abu Sayyaf. Many believe US involvement would not hasten the defeat of terrorists. Rather, it could prolong the fighting to give the US their bargaining chips to remind President Duterte to slow down on his independent foreign policy having its ultimate goal of bringing the Philippines back to the fold of US hegemony.
Finally, if the intelligence community has not noticed it yet, the presence of civilian volunteers wearing white helmets in the war-torn areas of Marawi invites suspicion. Many suspect they are providing the possible escape route for the terrorists in the guise of helping evacuate civilians. These volunteers in white helmets have been featured by the US and local mainstream media. Similar white helmeted groups are operating in Syria and they turned out to be sympathetic to ISIS and al Nusra, and even serving as their scouts.
More disturbing is that soon after the US joined the military operation in Marawi City, it was reported that the Maute and the ISIS opened a new front, an ominous sign that the fighting could continue. Such observation is easy to deduce because the US is the number one supplier of arms to the number one funder of international terrorism. President Trump recently concluded a $360-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Here the members of the MILF, BIFF and their wayward brothers like the Maute, the Abu Sayyaf and the local ISIS have their loyalty to Saudi Arabia. It is expected that some of those acquisition by Saudi Arabia will end up in the hands of Islamic terrorists, and Lorenzana did himself a good job for the US to accomplish its goal.