Sunday, September 17, 2017

Can ASEAN Learn from EU on Counterterrorism or Vice Versa?

Photo from ABC News
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).


While jihadi terrorists are still counting their days in Marawi City as Filipino soldiers and policemen intensify firefights against Abu Sayyaf top leader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute group leader Abdullah Maute, the Armed Forces of the Philippines firmly believes that clashes will end even before the expiration of ASEAN Chair and Filipino President Duterte’s extended martial law on December. The pervading security situation in Marawi needs to be evaluated carefully reviewing the past and current campaigns against terrorists. The popularity of local bandits who evolved to jihadi radicals is what emboldened them against the intensive and extensive military campaigns of the security sector.

On the hand, the Barcelona terror attack last August 17 reminded Spain of the devaju Madrid suffered more than a decade ago. As Europe faces again strings of international terrorism, the evolved transnational crime carries a clear shift in Islamic State’s strategy as well as the growing number of foreign terrorist fighters to sow an ambiguous ideology.

Spain and the Philippines share common historical experiences as colonizer-colony states but both countries, geographically distant from each other and affiliated with two of the oldest regional blocs – Madrid joined the European Union in 1986 while Manila is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1967, are vulnerable to jihadi terrorism. Given the situation, can ASEAN learn from EU on counterterrorism or vice versa?

Terrorism is broad in nature and counterterrorism needs holistic approaches to prevent terrorism. It incorporates practice, military tactical operations, government strategies, law enforcement, treatises and intelligence sharing to combat a transborder crime; hence, it also attempts to counter financing of terrorism that gives lifeblood to its existence and success. All terrorists may become extremists but not all extremists necessarily end up as terrorists. Transformation to terrorism starts by passing through the journey of religious extremism and radicalism that have social dimension in which terrorism has none. And since extremism is a precursor to terrorism, addressing the causes of radicalism is just like preventing terrorism to take place.

In the desire to benchmark counterterrorism policies and laws, there are general and optimistic views where ASEAN and EU can learn from each other including the need to expand areas of cooperation to more information exchange especially on terrorism and religious extremism. Integration of efforts versus terrorism at the operational level; and safeguarding trade and transport systems from being taken advantage of by terrorist networks to transport illegal goods. The ASEAN-EU defense cooperation is necessary to achieve common interests considering that the two oldest regional blocs drive against transnational crimes, cybercrimes and terrorism. Both organizations also condemned terrorism in all its forms and call on the international community to work together to fight this scourge to mankind.

On the other hand, there are cultural handicaps at the organizational level that may weaken the cooperation of crafting policies and implementing treatises on counterterrorism. A case in point is the crafting of policy for International Defense and Security Engagements in the two regions that obviously are influenced by external and internal forces in shaping the defense cooperation relationships with other countries. External factors such as those connected with foreign policy as well as internal factors such as capability development requirements are but some drivers that impact how the defense ministries conduct its foreign engagements. Collectively as a region, it is premature for Southeast Asian member-states to see the effects of the impending implementation of the ASEAN Community by 2015 with the expected influx of ASEAN military engagements and its attendant consequences of regional integration on defense and military procurements.

A key element in defense cooperation is building the capacity of partner nations’ defense organization through security cooperation and assistance programs to support defense institution building. In this regard, more and better coordination mechanisms are needed to avoid the implementation of redundant security cooperation programs. Translating security cooperation goals into effective action given the multitude of stakeholders, changing political and security environments, and resource limitations, defense cooperation must be properly directed for greatest effects.

Among the most important policies of the defense is strengthening alliances. In leveraging alliances against international terrorism, there are rules and methods to maximize growth in building lasting relations. But acknowledging that ASEAN and EU have entered a dynamic and future-oriented era in the development of defense relations, both regional organizations are committed to maintain partnerships in counterterrorism efforts.      

Rethinking the War on Drugs and Narcoterrroism

Phoo from Reuters India
By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

The successive deaths of teenagers in Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs endorsed the iota that there is something wrong with the method of his most controversial banner policy. On the other hand, while Filipino soldiers are still combating jihadi terrorists in Marawi City, there are pieces of evidence that would link violent conflicts in Mindanao to narcoterrroism. In contextualizing the broad situations of this debatable policy, how should the government rethink the war on drugs and why there is substantive connection of narcoterrroism to the current siege in southern Philippines?

These two different conditions in the continuing War on Drugs are retributions to the existing norms of the campaign to eliminate illegal drugs in the Philippines through the Project “Double Barrel” that connotes a two-pronged approach, project Tokhang (lower barrel approach) and project High Value Target (lower barrel approach) that aim at attaining utopian drug-free communities across the country.  

By rethinking the methods to halt the carnage of innocent young lives demand reframing the objectives of the campaign; that the double-barrel strategy should not mean attacking the problem against suspected drugs lords or drug addicts on the level of the street, pushing simultaneously. It should no longer be described as a policy equated to a double-barreled shotgun that can fire two rounds with a single pull of the trigger. Such reframing of method should consider the social and medical dimensions of it and not solely as crime deterrence. Hence, institutionalizing an anti-drug campaign pushes for interagency cooperation that needs serious policymaking and rigid methods in protecting the asymmetrical rights of the law enforcers and the felony.     

The right to health extends the guarantee that human rights comes as a primary obligation of the state. It is realized when the government supports facilities, equipment and rehabilitation to drug dependents.  A drugged nation remains a weak and defeated nation. This malignant phenomenon tells the existence of a shadow economy whose nature may jeopardize a nations’ safety and security that draw from the real existence of the core problem. Certainly drug abuse strains family relationships and ultimately making families dysfunctional; transforming families from an asset of society into a burden.

In this case, unconditional surrender program for users and peddlers must be encouraged augmenting a well-financed management of voluntary submission for drug pushers and rehabilitated users. Mainstreaming of drug education in the curriculum of secondary education as explicitly constituted in the Philippine Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act must be conscientiously be implemented. There should be a comprehensive plan for long/medium/and short term anti-drug operations to formalize the Project Double Barrel’s procedures with a maximum end of safeguarding human rights.

On the other hand, weak governance structures and institutions in Mindanao, notwithstanding the loopholes of the Dangerous Drugs Act are making it easy for alleged terrorists and drug lords to connive and sow conflict or navigate the perimeters of narcotics’ shadow economy.  This sudden act of defiance from interest groups in the changing game plays of Philippines politics are as well manifestations of the prevailing narcopolitics and triads. In this case, drug lords cannot make a scene because they may be identified by authorities; however, they can connive with terrorists or criminals by funding terrorist activities to spread chaos. In other words, drug cartels can buy protection, political support at every level of government and society.

The Philippine government should be strategic and proactive on its War on Drugs in its solid campaign to address the social cancer of narcotics which other nation-states may have already considered a hopeless case. It should be responsive to the changing times by amplifying constructive mechanisms to address the complex problems of illegal drugs. In addressing the violence associated with narcoterrorism, there must be integrative and inclusive national policy to address religious dichotomy to eliminate enmity and stereotype between religious factions associated with illegal drugs. 

Intensive efforts to crystallize cloudy policies on the War on Drugs should be given a priority. The abrupt constructions of treatment and rehabilitation centers and the lack of it ensured preponderance of political aid that questioned a posteriori human rights issue. And those who either voluntarily or involuntarily surrendered to law enforcers add to the harrowing conditions of prisons in the country. Hence, the ramifications of the War on Drugs can be overturned despite its long term end of reducing drug supply or reducing drug demand, if methods are lawfully accomplished and the good intent ensures public safety and internal security. 

Revitalizing Military War Fighting Education

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Photo from Pitz Defense Analysis
The delay in the shift resolution on how to contain the jihadi terrorism in the Marawi siege is a “wake up call” for the defense sector to constantly train and educate the military. The current dilemma is not a precedence of urban rebellion but a continuation of series of attacks by the enemies of the state. Cases in point are the 1995 Ipil massacre, the 2013 Zamboanga standoff, and other numerous attacks of the New People’s Army in town centers across the country.

The challenges of this type of fighting can be gleaned from contemporary events. Fighting in urban and built up areas will become more prevalent in the future if not addressed now.  More than that, myriad of soldiers and military officers felt short of the reorientation that the military’s principal duty is to fight war and to win it by hook or by crook. It cannot be denied that the Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) which calls for a turnkey live training solution away from archaic guerilla war fighting replicates tactical complexities unique to urban terrain. It is a combat conducted in urban areas which is different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level.

Plebes at the Philippine Military Academy should reset the warrior culture that was once deemphasized in their curriculum. The warrior culture will prepare our soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines in striving to increase their proficiency in war fighting and leadership skills to protect and secure the country. Although part of their training and education calls for Military Operations Other than War (MOOTW) as supporting competencies which is also their call to duty. The law provides reserve units to participate in disaster relief operations, humanitarian assistance, support to civil authorities, support to counter drugs and counter terrorism, peacekeeping and peace enforcement. MOOTW focuses on deterring war, resolving conflict, promoting peace, and supporting civil authorities in response to domestic crises.     

Integration of military education should be tempered to both MOUT and MOOTW anchored on the principal duty to fight wars and the secondary mission to become peace builders. If existing in the programs and curriculum, then it should be adequately enhanced. This is a strategy of optimizing all military educational resources by establishing competency standards, aligning curriculum content and harmonizing organizational structures to enhance system harmony, thereby, improving military achievements. Integration of military education helps improve the delivery of military training and education that, in turn, helps generate quality elite graduates in all military institutions who are better prepared to meet contemporary security challenges.


In the more advanced courses such as the Command and General Staff College and the National Defense College of the Philippines, emphasis on education must elevate the core competency of decision-making. Courses must be designed to improve and sharpen the way senior officers make decisions on operational decision-making to quell urban rebellion. The professionalization of the military through the establishment of such military schools of higher education reflects the foundation to secure the country required to transform it through broad competencies. In the end, while the AFP supports peace efforts of the government, the AFP must also be focused on its preparedness to fight and win. And this is the primordial function of the armed forces. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Jump for Finland and Estonia

                      Photographs by CBCabalza. Copyright © 2017 by Chester B. Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

Enjoyed the midsummer madness in Helsinki. Magnificent cathedrals and museums are awesome. Finns are humble and hardworking. The Creators of Angry Bird! Conquering the Baltic Sea! Olde Hansa in Tallin and the must see KGB Museum in Hotel Viru!   























Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Terrorism’s Paradox in Marawi: How Will It End?

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).
Photo courtesy of Google


Prince Hamlet’s soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s famous one-liner opening phrase, “to be or not to be?” paints a backdrop of the forbidding scenario that still looms many Filipinos’ consternation about the fate of Marawi under the IS-inspired terrorist groups. It bespeaks sorrow and pain that bemoans myriad of death of Filipinos – be it civilians, soldiers, and terrorists. The realism in Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s epic masterpiece on ‘War and Peace’ downplays Philippine contemporary period parallel to machinations of violent battles in the name of a false united caliphate, power play of superpowers in aid of counterterrorism measures, and the usurpation of legal power of statesmen vested with political will to crush terrorism visible to fallen Marawi City.    

The irony sows a harrowing inquiry on the role of the Philippine security sector in training Filipino soldiers as prescribed by policymakers on the orientation and reorientation of tactical operations and strategies in solving the Marawi conundrum. Should soldiers become peace builders or war fighters amid heavy causes of jihadi terrorism?  This current quandary is the biggest challenge to date for the Philippine government on its bid to stabilize internal insecurity that reckons a “wake up call” for the defense sector to constantly train and educate the military.

Prior to 9/11 the Philippines has been combating terrorism as it dwelt the nontraditional security threat as forms of multi-faceted phenomenon dissecting it from the prisms of cultural, historical, legal, philosophical, political, psychological, and technological lenses. It resembles an iceberg constituting the tip of shocking attacks with wide base founding substantial concerns on the persistence of religious radicalization and poverty. To annihilate and wipe out an iceberg, one must destroy it from the base. Similarly, terrorism should be treated properly to conscientiously address the issues that support the tip.   

More than three months of fierce fighting with the jihadi terrorists in urban setting in Marawi has caused the Armed Forces of the Philippines a big ‘Black Hawk Down’ trap despite precedence of urban rebellion during the Zamboanga siege in 2013. Failure of intelligence sharing and interoperability were attributed to the weakness of military operations to contain immediately the terrorist cells in Mindanao. More than that, myriad of soldiers and military officers felt short of the redirection that the military’s principal duty is to fight war and to win it by hook or by crook.

Terrorism in Marawi has changed the rules of the game of war as Filipino soldiers continuously struggle to win the war at home. Military doctrines must evolve to be armed with hybrid and unconventional strategies to counter the sophisticated tactics acquired by jihadi terrorists in a well-planned crucible.

The abstract of ideology intrigues everyone as it allows believers to make sense of the world around them. It arms them with values, moral frameworks, and the ability to understand and add meanings in relations. More so, the apparent contest of ideology brings a winning chance to local terrorists in their holistic approach not only to sow their goodwill in their own perspective as to give hope to the poor and neglected people of Mindanao but also their mastery of geography and training in urban warfare remain an advantage.      

With the global paradigm shifts of war studies to peace studies in trying to bridge the conflicting ideologues in military education, to some extent prescribing developmental dimensions as the key solution to the complex and changing security landscape, nonetheless, this rhetoric will not bring immediate stability in Marawi. Terrorists do not subscribe to either school of thought rather they will deconstruct the order in meeting the means to justify the end. Sowing terrorism breeds unethical norms at the expense of the populace that permeates disorder to unearth rancor and grievance to the misfortune of the government.

The synergy of action from the defense sector to professionalize the Philippine military is underscored to value higher education that must be based on wisdom that the security landscape requires a transformation in education and development of broad competencies. The dilemma of a war fighting and peace building formal education must transcend beyond the volatility of defense and security but rather it should emerge as a catalyst of change in protecting the survival of nations and peoples.

There are no good templates from around the world to substantiate the resolution of terrorism in Mindanao. The Marawi siege is a case of its own that must become a lesson to all that terrorism is indeed real in Southeast Asia and across the globe. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Deal or No Deal: Prospects on Philippines-China Joint Oil Drill

By Chester B Cabalza

Blogger's Notes:

Commentary of an Academic 
(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In a twist of fate, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi agreed to support Manila’s offer to consider a joint energy exploration in the Reed Bank, an underwater of 8,866 square-kilometer tablemount believed to hold significant oil and gas deposits in the tension-laden South China Sea. Contrary to China’s threat using maritime attack to Vietnam of its intent to do a unilateral activity in the Spartly Islands if drilling continued, as recourse the Southeast Asian claimant-country immediately halted the plan. 

In the span of one year, President Rodrigo Duterte befriended a giant neighbor, visited China consecutively, and in between mounted an independent foreign policy to diversify relations with Beijing. In a struggle to repair the damaged friendship between the two East Asian countries, only July last year when the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled out in favour of the petitioner of the landmark maritime case awarding to the archipelagic state exclusive sovereign rights to access offshore hydrocarbons and natural gas within its 370-kilometers exclusive economic zone where the Reed Bank is located.Given these antecedents, the big question that summons scores of observers is, will this be the beginning of a brighter future for the estranged Asian neighbors?

In the past years, contest over potential hydrocarbon resources in the South China Sea has catalyzed unilateral oil explorations undertaken by several claimant states, particularly the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia as well as their respective legislation of sovereignty claims such as baselines and continental shelf submissions. The Philippines successfully discovered a natural gas field in 1992 building the Malampaya Natural Gas to Power Project, a joint government and private sector undertaking, considered as the single most expensive project of the Philippine government. The gas reservoir is located underwater at 3,000 meters in depth with estimated recoverable volume at 2.7 trillion standard cubic feet. Nonetheless, oil and gas reserves at the Reed Bank are deemed to be larger than those in Malampaya.

Only last month, President Duterte sought the permission of Chinese President Xi Jinping to initiate a unilateral energy drill in Reed Bank, but to his counterpart’s dismay, the Filipino firebrand leader was threatened with war. The revived talks for joint development sprouted more than three decades ago when Chinese paramount leader Deng Xiaoping pitched the idea to the Philippines’ first female president Corazon Aquino. But the schizophrenic relationship turned sour when China started flexing its muscles using a historical claim to justify Beijing’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea cordoned by controversial dotted lines but nullified by the international arbitral court that sparked high-pressure flashpoints and protests among six other sovereign states which lay overlapping claims in the world’s busiest trade routes. As a defense mechanism, former Philippine President Benigno Aquino Jr. strategically countered China’s military projections by resorting to lawfare who deemed was best for the archipelagic country at that time to operationalize a territorial defense strategy.

China claims almost all the territories in the South China Sea including the Spartlys archipelago, a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays, and islands. The Philippines currently controls five islands, two reefs and two sandbars in the Spartlys. Consequently, unearthing what lies beneath the abundant resources in the contested maritime features, is inevitably viewed as ecologically and economically difficult affecting the still contentious maritime and territorial clash concerning the region’s security. 

According to the Philippine Department of Energy, the oil drill at Reed Bank may resume before the yearend. It was announced last July 12, coincidentally the same day when the Philippines noted the first year anniversary of Manila’s legal triumph against Beijing in the maritime row. It cannot be denied that hydrocarbon resources are becoming attractive and lucrative for both the Chinese and Filipinos given each state’s economic resurgence. China, already a major importer of fuels and minerals, rapidly gets equipped for such a competition; robed with highly-energy and resources-intensive economy, but the resource supply irregularities may be fatal as a result.

The growing geopolitical volatility in the region, especially in light of the Philippines’ pivot to China can be glanced at into both scientific and artistic forms of national security formulation.Veracity of the current security relationship between Manila and Beijing has been in opposing ends, however, with the renewed warming up relations and blossoming economic opportunities as evidenced by a possible joint oil exploration need to be scrutinized conscientiously, giving us a closer glance that recent affirmative episodes are determinants of the will of change to heal fragmented disparities in terms of national interests over sovereignty issues and territorial integrity.   

Furthermore maritime disputes are not the sum-total of the bilateral relations of claimant states of the islands, rocks, and cays in the South China Sea. Beyond diplomatic negotiations, there are mutual interests that must transcend beyond the issue. One side of the coin permeates a joint development that certainly translates into cooperation. Entertaining the iota of cooperation connotes a process of confidence building mechanism. Cooperation thus occurs when actors adjust their behaviour to the actual and anticipated preferences of others through a process of policy coordination. Policy adjustments may often be negotiated to synchronized group agreements with each actor’s preferences. Once individual and group policies become more compatible, a certain act of cooperation may be completed. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

A year of living in War on Drugs: Fillennials under Duterte’s imagined drug-free nation


Photo from The Atlantic
By Chester B Cabalza


Blogger's Notes:
Commentary of an Academic 

(Copyright @ 2017 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved).


The common notion that millennials around the world share the same youth culture might be somewhat germane to illustrate the Philippines. However the Fillennials or Filipino millennials who are social media junkies diverge from other millennials in a sense that their hopes and dreams are still shaped by its own culture and society. Painting a Disney imagery, they embody optimism, career-driven aptitude, and known for their self-entitlements.

Borrowing Professor Ky Hayes’s definition of the millennial, they are those born between 1980s and expanding even to those born in the early 2000s with ages ranging from 18-34. It is incontestable that this diverse generation floods the cyberspace as the harbingers in the “Information Age” and “Digital Era”.

Ascribed as tech-savvy cohort caters their motivated skills to be socially-aware as they were exposed to significant societal changes globally at the peak of globalism, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the internet age. Being civic-minded, millennials highly value work and lifestyle by standing multi-tasking and team-oriented which draws flak from other generations despite being tagged as self-centered and ambitious.

To identify the existence of a “millennial culture” in the Philippines requires the assumption that a “millennial generation” exists along with an indicative unique set of values, habits, and attitudes that its members demonstrate.

The Philippines’ transformation into a narco-state was created by its own history when its ancestors betel chewed in 1521, opium was banned in 1908, marijuana prevailed in 1954 but by choice preferred as illegal drugs among Filipinos since the Martial Law in 1972, shabu users surfaced in Manila in 1983 and reached its peak in 2004, but since 2002 the Dangerous Drugs Board reported that there were 5.8 million drug users in the country, and a decade after, the Philippines turned out having the highest rate of shabu addicts in East Asia. 

Regrettably, there are almost four million illegal drug dependents in the country, majority are concentrated in big cities, albeit not situated in one contiguous area but spread throughout the entire country.

Policy-making worldwide is increasingly evidence-based. The same should be applied to the Philippines current drug policy. Two schools of thought are challenging Duterte’s banner program on the war on drugs (WOD), whether it is crime deterrence or health and social problem.


Almost a year after his inaugural speech as the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines, he boldly crashed the world as he doggedly executed his controversial campaign against illegal drugs called Project “Double Barrel” that connotes a two-pronged approach, namely, project Tokhang (lower barrel approach) and project High Value Target (upper barrel approach),  spearheaded by the Philippine National Police, aimed at attaining utopian drug-free communities across the country .

His prime advocacy of “real change” more so intensified his WOD campaign receiving a mixed support from newly installed world leaders while he defied global human rights watchdogs as the international community witnessed alarming rate of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

The sudden constructions of treatment and rehabilitation centers and the lack of it ensured preponderance of political aid that questioned a posteriori human rights issue. And those who either voluntarily or involuntarily surrendered to law enforcers add to the harrowing condition of prisons in the country. 

In terms of substance abuse among Fillennials, alarmingly the 15-19 years old group who has claimed of drug use is mostly males than females while those undergoing rehabilitation belong to the age group of 25-29 years old totaling to about 2.1million Fillennials engrossed to substance abuse since 1997.

Their experimental behaviors include smoking, drinking, and using drugs leading to mental and neurological disorders while some spend their productive years of their life behind bars with hardcore lawless adults. In effect, the magnitude of drug use problem among the youth impacts the productivity of the workforce linking unemployment and drug-taking habits among drugged millennials.  

Correlating the youth’s digital dependence and drug addiction, these can be manifested by the distorted image of the adolescent relationships to the social environment much produced by consumerism, and faint personal and family values.   

Given the drug policy’s messianic complex against a malignant phenomenon, gradually offsetting a relentless dream encompassing suppression, prosecution and rehabilitation in a holistic manner; the failed vision botched inadequacy of serious policy-making and rigid methods that protects the asymmetrical rights of the felony and the victims.

The bloody war on drugs besets wars on poor people, the youth, and crime busters who lost the appetite of seeing the real picture and turning a blind eye about a genuine social dilemma depriving a person of life, liberty and property.  

If WOD is framed as a social and medical issue, transpotting from the odd view as crime deterrence with a scar face caused by narco-politics and narco-terrorism, it must be institutionalized as an anti-drug campaign to push for inter-agency cooperation, a primus inter pares among government agencies to second the motion as a national security threat.  

Unconditional surrender program for users and peddlers must be encouraged augmenting a well-financed management of voluntary submission for drug pushers and rehabilitated users. Mainstreaming of drug education in curriculum of secondary education as explicitly constituted in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act must be properly supported and implemented. There should be a comprehensive plan for long/medium/ and short term anti-drug operations to formalize the Project Double Barrel’s procedures with a maximum end of safeguarding human rights.


Ultimately the ramifications of WOD can be overturned, despite its long term end of reducing drug supply or reducing drug demand, if methods are lawfully accomplished and the good intent ensures public safety and internal security.