The former head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office in the Philippines on Friday lauded the unity and cooperation between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for doing a good job in handling the crisis in Mindanao.
Dr. Stephen Cutler, who served the FBI while assigned in the Philippines for five years, said that activities being undertaken by the government to stop the terrorist activities of the Maute group in Marawi is doing “fairly well.”
“I think they are doing fairly well. I am actually very pleased with a lot of work that’s being done,” Cutler said during an interview on Friday. “I have a great deal of faith in the AFP and the PNP and they are doing the right thing by protecting innocent lives.”
In a tactical perspective, from the point of view of an outsider, Cutler believes the AFP and PNP are doing a much better job of working together.
“What I call the blue suits and the green suits, it used to be that they would not even talk to each other. That’s not the case these days,” he said, adding the two agencies are doing a much better work of exchanging tactical information and cooperating attack collaboration.
He added the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) can also have program exchanges “because national security isn’t clearly divided anymore into military operation versus civilian operations.”
“We need to make sure that our national security entities are working together in a joint environment and that the rules and policies set up in the national, regional and local levels is encouraged to network together,” he said.
Cutler is one of the speakers in the “Awareness is the Best Deterrence” conference organized by the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB), also attended by representatives from local government units, law enforcement, schools and security officers.
During his stint here, Cutler headed the investigative and other program works of the FBI in all regions of the country.
To better assure the country’s security, he said the Philippines “must have a very good relationship with its ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) members but even beyond ASEAN and around the world” through our attaches and consulates in foreign countries.
“There is a need to establish much better contacts and exchanges of information from the Philippines to those nations as well as from those nations to the Philippines so that we can identify foreign fighters and beyond the foreign fighters, the foreign influences,” he said.
He added that certain changes must be undertaken with the way the Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), including the Anti-money laundering council work.
“This will strengthen our ability to exchange information in the international arena.”
He said the country must also refocus on strengthening its capabilities in handling large-scale terrorist acts, thus the need to improve armaments and equipment.
Cutler is now an active director of the Guide Meridian, a Philippine technology company focused on information and data gathering and usage.
He pointed out that preparation is preparation and it helps us deal with all kinds of threat. “That shows a modernization of mind set which we did not have yet.”
He also lauded the hospitality and accommodation of the city and HRAB for thinking global. “This conference that deals with awareness of terrorism issues. I think they’ve done a pretty good job of awareness and prep on natural disasters but what we have not done a really good job yet is developing an awareness of preparation techniques on man-made disasters like the Resorts World disasters and the Marawi issue.”
Anthony de Leon, HRAB president and general manager of the Baguio Country Club, said “awareness is the best deterrent” to any hostile acts. LIZA T. AGOOT / PNA / ABN
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