High praise for AFP

It was high praise that was heaped on the Armed Forces of the Philippines by Jim Mattis, the visiting United States secretary of defense, for the AFP’s conduct of the five-month war against terrorists in Marawi City. Not only did Mattis congratulate the military for putting down the Islamic State-inspired attempt to take over the city, he also noted that the AFP did so while respecting human rights.

“Here’s an army that had to go in a fight like that, and they had not one human rights allegation against them with any credibility,” Mattis told reporters at Clark Field in Pampanga. “Not one, and when you look at how bloody awful that fight was, that’s really a statement about the Philippine military that set a human rights condition in the midst of that fight the way they did so.”

Certain US officials, rights groups and media organizations, of course, have been the most vocal critics of the human-rights record of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. The Philippine president has repeatedly protested the charges hurled from across the Pacific by the Americans, leading some to believe that ties between Manila and Washington are now at historic lows.

But the US has also provided a lot of support to the Duterte administration in its battle against the terrorists in Marawi. Indeed, the anti-Duterte noise emanating from the US was dialed down significantly during the Marawi campaign, for the simple reason that the Americans have always supported efforts to contain the spread of terrorism throughout the world.

It’s true that the Philippine military acted with great professionalism during the fight to take back the predominantly Islamic city. When a platoon of Marines discovered a huge stash of cash and checks totaling P79 million in a terrorist stronghold that they liberated last June, the soldiers turned over all of money to their superiors; that’s how professional those troops were.

Local leftist and rights groups, always on the lookout for incidents of abuse by the military during the tense and bloody campaign, could not find any case that they could credibly use in their anti-government propaganda efforts. And when the military broke the back of the occupying force with the killing of Isnilon Hapilon and Omarkhayyam Maute, the Commission on Human Rights could only say that it would look into reports that the AFP had not followed the “rules of engagement” when they took out the two high-value terrorist leaders.

The truth is, IS-style terrorism, as seen in the Middle East and exported to the Philippines, is the greatest enemy of human rights. Never mind if you never hear the local bleeding hearts denounce the documented cases of sexual abuse, forced labor, murder and the use of human shields as recounted by the residents of Marawi who were caught in the war.

But its refreshing to hear a top US official commend Philippine security forces for simultaneously repelling a terrorist takeover and safeguarding human rights. And if the benighted and misled foreigners who have taken to denouncing the Philippine government for rights abuses on the basis of “evidence” presented by certain Filipino politicians and other such partisan groups will only be more discerning, I’m certain that they, too, could become as convinced as Mattis is that they just fell for the anti-Duterte propaganda.

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Speaking of discredited political partisans, the now-moribund Liberal Party has accused the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte of attempting to demonize party bigwigs in a supposed bid to divert attention from his government’s own failings. According to the once-awesome former administration party, attempts to link LP stalwarts Senator Franklin Drilon and failed presidential candidate Mar Roxas to the drug trade were meant to distract people from national problems “such as rising prices, extrajudicial killings and corruption, including drug smuggling at the Bureau of Customs.”

The allegations against Drilon and Roxas were contained in an affidavit signed recently by suspected drug ring member Ricky Serenio which went mostly unreported in the Manila-based media after the document’s disclosure last week.

But the LP statement was strangely silent on the same charges, based on the same affidavit, hurled against Jed Patrick Mabilog, the mayor (on indefinite leave) of Iloilo City. Mabilog has been ordered dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman for “serious dishonesty,” after he failed to explain a significant increase in his net worth.

Even Manuel “Boy” Mejorada, who filed the original charge against Mabilog in 2015, expressed surprise that the mayor was given the maximum penalty of dismissal and a permanent prohibition from holding public office. “I am happy because this decision is a vindication for me [but] also saddened because the penalty imposed is the harshest under the law,” Mejorada said.

But I understand perfectly why the LP defended Drilon and Roxas but failed to even mention Mabilog, who happens to be a relation of Drilon. Mabilog, after all, has been ousted by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, long known for her passion for defending members of the party.

Mabilog had to be thrown under the bus to save Drilon and Roxas. Mabilog has also effectively abandoned his post by going abroad and not returning—and now he’s probably never coming back.

Topics: Armed Forces of the Philippines , Jim Mattis , Marawi City , War , Terrorists , Human rights
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