By Mario Casayuran
Members of the Senate majority bloc said Wednesday the car bombing in Basilan that killed at least 10 people and a suspected foreign suicide bomber underscores the need to strengthen the military’s intelligence operations to prevent similar incidents in the future and to ensure peace and security in the country.
“It is difficult to stop further suicide bombings. From where I came from, it’s intelligence, intelligence, intelligence, intelligence should prompt the government forces to do some pro-active offense. There’s no other way because if you are not pro-active, you’ll be caught flat-footed,’’ Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, said.
Lacson said the incident is frightening and worrisome because it is the first time a suicide bombing case occurred in the Philippines.
“My fear is, what if there is a spillover to highly populated urban centers? Then we have a big problem,’’ Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, said.
After condemning the suicide bombing, Senator Richard J. Gordon advised the government in general, especially the security officers, to step up their intelligence and security capabilities, especially government installations.
“Because who knows, once it is confirmed to be a suicide bombing case, then we should really step up,’’ he added.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee, said such act of terrorism, which is an indiscriminate attack, violates the International Humanitarian Law and our domestic law – Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, which he authored.
“My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the victims. I urge the government to give justice for their untimely deaths by bolstering our Armed Forces’ capability so that the military would be more effective in defending the country against internal and external threats. The PNP and other security forces should also have improved capability to ensure peace and order,’’ he added.
The incident came days after President Duterte signed into law the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that was seen to reduce or stop secessionist ambitions of some Bangsamoro groups and bring peace to war-torn Muslim Mindanao.
Whole Mindanao is still covered by President Duterte’s martial declaration. It was declared when a Muslim terrorist group laid siege to Marawi city last year.
On whether martial law in Mindanao helped the situation, Lacson said: ‘’If at all, psychologically. Because martial law or no martial law, if you look at the provisions in the Constitution, there are no extra powers available to the President because the writ of habeas corpus has not been suspended.’’
“There are no warrantless arrests. More than what is really in the Bill of Rights or in the Constitution or in the existing rules and existing laws,’’ he added.
Lacson stressed that martial law is helping the administration of President Duterte because as I said at least psychologically, people are showing some obedience to the military.