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!