By Darwin Fernandez
Lumalabas nga ‘yung pawis sa kamay ko (My hands get clammy) just thinking about if it would go awry outside of Sulu and Basilan islands,” Duterte said in a speech at an appreciation dinner hosted by the women of the 17th Congress for former House speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at The Manila Hotel.
This was in light of the recent bombing in Sulu where the country had its first Filipino suicide-bomber.
Following his stream of words in a speech that was almost a conversation with the audience, Duterte mentioned that by the year 2022—his expected end of term—the military would be fully modernized as an answer to terrorism.
“I’d rather that I leave with a strong military and police equipped to challenge the enemies of the state, especially terrorism,” he said.
Terrorism by extremist groups and other enemies of the state continues to plague the country and, unless addressed decisively, will continue to bedevil succeeding administrations, he said.
“We have acquired so many armaments,” he said as he expressed hope that Congress would help the executive procure a few more – “kakaunti na lang – to complete the instruments that we need in dealing, especially with terrorism.”
Duterte expressed optimism that the new 18th Congress would be able to help him achieve his goal to enhance the capability of security forces.
“I hope that by the time I make my exit, nandiyan na lahat ‘yan (everything will be in place) because I am not belittling the events to come or the person coming in to be the next president. Hindi ko alam kung sino (I don’t know who),” he said.
Beefing up the defense and the fighting capability of security forces, he said, is part of his mandate to “protect the Filipino people and preserve” the country.
“When Madam Arroyo was president, she envisioned to make sure the Philippines (would be) a ‘Strong Republic.’ That’s also my sloganeering. I always said that my oath of office, reduce it in a very simple term, is that: I swore to protect the people and preserve the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
“So that I said, I must be prepared. And nabili ko na ho ‘yung mga kailangan (I’ve bought what is needed), but there are still a few things that I must have for my Armed Forces and the police,” he said.
The President met with top military and police officials at a joint command conference last Monday at Malacañang. Officials did not disclose the details of their meeting.
Development on Sulu’s suicide-bomber
At a joint press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo yesterday, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo and police spokesman Col. Bernard Banac said that DNA samples taken from one of the suicide bombers, 23-year-old Norman Lasuca, matched 99.99 percent with those of his mother Vilman Lasuca and brother Alhussin Alam Lasuca.
Mrs. Lasuca claimed and buried the decapitated head of her suicide-bomber son Norman last week.
“Hence, it can be concluded that one of the alleged suicide bombers is the son of Vilman (not Vilma as earlier reported) Alam Lasuca,” the Philippine National Police (PNP) Davao Regional Crime Laboratory Office (RCLO 11) said in a report.
On the other hand, the identity of the second suicide bomber is still being determined as both the military and the police continue to look for family and friends of the slain suspect for DNA matching.
Lasuca and an unidentified militant-companion detonated one after the other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) they were carrying, inside and outside the compound of the Army’s 1st Brigade Combat Team (1BCT) headquarters in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu at around noon of June 28.
It was Lasuca who blew himself up at the front gate of the Army camp and at the height of the confusion, the second bomber was able to enter the camp where he detonated an IED amid a hail of bullets from responding soldiers.
The blasts also killed three soldiers and three civilians. More than 20 others – soldiers and civilians – were also wounded in the attack, the first-ever in the country by a local suicide bomber.
In Zamboanga City, Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), vowed to “relentlessly” pursue Sawadjaan’s group.
“We further commit to pursue relentlessly the mastermind of this inhuman act and give justice to the victims,” Sobejana said.
Sawadjaan is known to have pledged allegiance to the Middle East-based Islamic State (IS) and provided refuge to a number of foreign militants in Sulu.
With the identification of the suicide bomber as Filipino, Sobejana has called on civilians and stakeholders to unite in the fight against all forms of terrorism.
“All of us should unite in our fight against all forms of violence. We need to protect our country and our people from the evils of terrorism,” Sobejana said.