Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday requested the Senate to increase the intelligence fund of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to ‘avoid repetition’ of the Zamboanga siege in September last year.
”We would want to enhance AFP capability to deter any aggressive intent, meaning we need sophisticated equipment for our intelligence capability and then increase the intelligence for security forces, meaning increase the intelligence funds for AFP,” Gazmin said in the Senate inquiry into the Zambo attack.
Gazmin also recommended to pursue the persecution of criminal cases and obtain conviction of those responsible in the bloody Zamboanga siege perpetrated by some 200 armed followers of former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari.
”These are the recommendations of the DND and AFP so that we avoid a repetition of this event. The AFP will pursue and perform their mandate in protecting our people,” Gazmin said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense, said the Senate will try to work on the DND’s request for increase intelligence fund.
”Hopefully in this new budget cycle, we will be able to increase those requests,” Trillanes, a former Navy officer, said.
Trillanes revealed that he has recommended the realignment of the P200 million pork barrel fund of Vice President Jejomar Binay for the AFP and Philippine National Police.
”But eventually, he (Binay) wanted it scrapped that our security forces won’t be able to avail of it. It is unfortunate,” Trillanes said.
On the DND’s request to pursue persecution of criminal cases, Trillanes said the request will be tackled in executive session with the AFP officials.
During the Senate probe, Trillanes stressed the need for both the local and national governments and other concerned agencies to come up with effective protocol to resolve crisis similar to Zamboanga incident in the future.
”That’s precisely why we are here. We are trying to establish protocol for the future reactions of government,” Trillanes said.
Trillanes commended the military for their effort to end the Zamboanga siege although it was achieved at “a very high prize” after it left many people dead mostly from MNLF side and forced the government to evacuate 120,000 people.
”We have seen the military option is quite effective. They were able to accomplished their mission but a very high prize. It should not be first option in the future occurrences,” Trillanes said.
The fighting reportedly cost
Misuari reportedly claimed the government has abandoned the tripartite review of the implementation of the 1996 final peace agreement in favor of holding peace talks with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
President Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAP) Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles insisted during the Senate hearing that government did not turn its back on the MNLF.
"We will not abandoned them. They (MNLF) will also experience the dividends of the peace process (with MILF),” Deles said.
Deles said the government is even inviting the MNLF to participate in the process of crafting Bangsamoro basic law as the result of the signing of framework agreement and its annexes between the government peace panel and the MILF.