By Genalyn Kabiling
To thwart any threat from Islamic State-linked militants, President Duterte has ordered the deployment of more battalions to help keep peace and security in Mindanao.
The President said he had asked Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to send 20 to 35 battalions from the Philippine Army, admitting he was worried that ISIS threat in Sulu might spill over to other parts of Mindanao.
“Sa Mindanao, they are grappling with terrorism. And that — if there is one thing that would give me the sweat in the hands at parang natatakot ako – terrorism (and I dread terrorism),” he said during the post-typhoon “Tisoy” damage assessment meeting in Legazpi City Thursday.
“We need men, and as a matter of fact, I have ordered Lorenzana to move faster sa creation ng mga bagong battalion sa army. We need — I need about… Ideally I need about 35. But I could — I would be happy with 20 in the meantime,” he said.
He said while he hopes the terrorism threat will not materialize, it is “always good to be prepared for all of these things.”
“Mindanao is very open to these kinds of things,” he said.
“Pero, (but) as far as we are concerned in government, wala pa naman (there’s none yet). I hope it would not come. The only fear is that the ISIS would move inner from the Sulu islands. It might travel to Mindanao. Ayan ang problema (That’s the problem),” he said.
At present, he said the government could manage the security threats in the south. “We are fighting the terrorists, ‘yung Abu Sayyaf. I’m losing my soldiers. It is expected pero nawa-wallop naman sila [but they are being walloped),” he said.
He noted that he previously ordered the deployment of an entire military division to Jolo, Sulu to address the peace and order problems there. Prior to such deployment, he said government forces were “sporadic” as “there was no clear advantage for government.”
Back in July, the President warned of imminent dangerous times amid the lingering terror threat. He said he wanted to further equip government forces to better deal with enemies of the state especially those engaged in terrorism and violent extremism.