January 23, 2018, 10:10 pm
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Jigsaw intelligence

IT seems that the military establishment is still run like a fat, plodding bureaucracy. 

Supreme Court Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo blames the “total failure of intelligence that practically caught the military by surprise” in Marawi. 

Solicitor-General Jose Calida could only say before the SC that intelligence-gathering was similar to a jigsaw puzzle and putting together classified information was not perfect. (Calida would never admit that Estelito Mendoza would have done a better job if he was contracted by Malacanang to help the Sol-Gen before the SC.) Well, Calida just painted a correct picture of bewilderment and puzzlement of top intelligence and security officials over the Marawi attack. When all they knew was that Isnilon Hapilon was in Marawi City and that the military had come to arrest him, indeed there is much to worry about the capacity of the intelligence units of the Armed Forces led by the NICA to cope with the complex manner of deployment, intelligence and recruitment of Islamic terror groups. 

President Duterte himself must have been fed with misleading information, or the lack of it, when he dismissed the Maute group as only a bunch of drug traffickers. And, repeatedly the military has downplayed as propaganda the claim of the little known Maute group and a faction of the Abu Sayaf pledging allegiance to ISIS. 

If there is any solid form of advanced technical and technological proficiency in intelligence gathering and analysis, it must have been lost somewhere in the web of administrative, financial, operational, acquisition, accountability and deployment sections and divisions, as well as in the layers of command, control and review, of the DND and NICA. Patronage acquisition and purchasing become apparent in really bad implementation which, of course, is very common with huge national projects, mainly because tons of money have gone to the “intended” wrong suppliers. Regrettably, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana is not savvy enough to lead his department in protecting the nation against well-equipped, well-funded and extremely- intelligence-grounded terror groups.

It must be a cultural trait going back a long way imposed on subordinates to make their superiors look good. The corporate world is abuzz with toxic climates created by bosses dumping demands on employees and setting short deadlines. In the military, it spells tragedy.

Thirteen Marines gave up their lives and scores were wounded in the bloodiest one-day firefight of the Marawi siege. They had been pushed by their ground commanders to retake the remaining enemy positions. This was after the armchair generals had reportedly given orders for Marawi to be freed by June 12 to coincide with the nation’s celebration of its 119th year of independence. It was supposed to be a huge and sumptouos gift to the President already weary by the prolonged war and hungry for a victory. Marines spokesman Major Ryan Lacuesta told this columnist during the wake of the gallant 13 that the WestMinCom Chief was almost sure that the ground commanders would not let them down. Lacuesta said that he himself was confident the ground commanders would know what tactical operations to undertake against the enemy who were mostly entrenched in unknown positions.

Apparently, Duterte must have felt the guilty pangs of a Commander-In Chief who did not stand in the way of the AFP Chief and the regional commanders from proceeding that way.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella was probably right in saying that Duterte did not order it, promptly distancing the Chief Executive from what many now regard as a major blunder.

A platoon of his “boys” led by 1st Lt. John Frederick Savellano proved to be more than the kind of men their commanders portrayed themselves to be. Their ultimate sacrifice was their countrymen’s victory that fateful day, which , indeed, all of us should relish as a tribute to them and the other soldiers who gave their lives in Marawi. Duterte had rushed to Villamor Air Base less than two hours after the plane bearing the coffins of the slain soldiers arrived last Saturday night. Forty-eight hours after coming face to face with the remains of the 13 marines and their grief-stricken families, he would cancel all his official appointments for the next three days .Duterte did not need that kind of hoopla from the generals who were out to show that symbols were mightier than life itself. They seemed convinced that Marawi City should be retaken completely by June 12 and that the rewards from the President would outweigh the tremendous costs.
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