By Ben Rosario
The Commission on Audit (COA) may have provided the reason President Duterte has been packing a pistol for added security.
State auditors said the Chief Executive has been lacking adequate safeguard, but not in terms of armed personnel, but in terms of K-9 security.
In the 2016 annual audit report for the General Headquarters-Armed Forces of the Philippines released recently by COA, auditors revealed that the degree of security offered by bomb-sniffing dogs is 25 percent lower than what is ideal.
According to COA, the current K-9 complement for President Duterte is five heads short of the 25 required in rendering full bomb sweeps and detection during the President’s official functions.
The value for money and performance audit of the GHQ-AFP also indicated that five of the 20 remaining dogs under the care of the Presidential Security Group are due to retire next year, leaving the PSG with only 15 K-9 unit members to conduct security rotation for the President.
Depending on the breed, dogs employed for police or military duty live from 10 to 14 years. According to PSG standards, they are at their best for just eight years after undergoing training.
The COA disclosed that as of December 31, 2016, at least 11 dogs have already retired and three more were recommended for retirement by the PSG’s veterinary officer due to advanced age and diminished capability.
Audit examiners warned that the small K-9 contingent tasked to secure the President could place him and others with him in official engagements in danger.
“With the 11 retired military dogs and five more expected to retire in CY 2018, the prime duty of the PSG in securing the safety of the President may not be affectively carried out,” the COA said.
Reacting to the audit findings, the PSG explained that it included a request for additional sum in its 2017 budget for the acquisition of 11 working dogs under the Capital Outlay but this proposal “was not considered by the Higher Headquarters.”
“Accordingly, the agency [PSG] will submit a separate request to Higher Headquarters citing the urgency, importance, and detrimental effect it will have on the protective security operation for the President and other Very Very Important Persons (VVIP),” the PSG said.
To address the current security problem, the PSG-Special Reaction Unit has borrowed four dogs from the AFP and Philippine Army K9 Units to augment its dwindling pack.
The AFP provided “Kara,” a German Shepherd, and “Brandon,” a Labrador. The Army on the other hand sent “King” and “Jerry,” both Belgian Malinois.
Auditors noted that the problem should have been anticipated early on, considering that the ages of the K9s are well recorded.
“The Command did not procure any bomb dog for the last 12 years and almost all of the existing effective bomb dogs were acquired through donation,” they pointed out.
The COA cautioned that even if money were made available immediately, the PSG K9 unit will still take some time to reach fully effective status. This is because the dogs still require schooling for their specialized duty and they also need time to bond and achieve inter-operability with their handlers.
“The acquisition and training of K9s necessitate a tedious process before they are utilized for military operations. Hence, a reasonable inventory of military dogs should be maintained and that acquisition of such should be properly planned and completed on a timely manner to support the Command’s operation critical to bomb detection,” auditors stated.
They recommended that PSG-SRU start a system to anticipate the need for additional work-ready K9s to prevent a recurrence of the problem that could compromise the safety of the Chief Executive.
The COA also urged the PSG to make representations with the AFP Headquarters and the Department of Budget and Management for the inclusion of necessary funding under next year’s budget for the procurement of working dogs.