“Let this be a warning for terrorists who have the intention to enter our territory: our troops are ready for you. We will definitely get you.” — Lt Gen Carlito Galvez Jr
Terrorism knows no boundaries. In today’s fast-changing, information-driven world, terrorism can thrive anywhere across the globe. Extremists and radical groups such as ISIS feed on the vulnerability of the marginalized, exploiting their sentiments and even their culture and beliefs to advance their agendas. The ISIS-Maute Terrorist Group is no different. However, it is unique, as it was able to bring together not only terrorists from foreign countries but also different ethnic groups from Mindanao to achieve the common goal of establishing a wilayat in the region. Thus, the Marawi crisis, which tested the capabilities and willpower of army leaders and personnel, has set a new trajectory for how the Army will overcome terrorism in the Philippines.
The following are recommendations based on the lessons learned by JTF Marawi after the successful conduct of our military operations:
Taking Advantage of Urban Warfare
We have won the Battle of Marawi, which gives us momentum and puts us in an advantageous position. Characterized as complex and multidimensional, urban warfare is not only limited to offensive and defensive operations. We can pursue preemptive measures against terrorist groups even before they occupy and lay siege on different urban centers. Among these should be training for all Philippine Army troops in Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT).
Showcasing Information Operations
The information landscape has shifted with the proliferation of electronic devices and other means of communication with access to the Internet and digital/social media. Thus, achieving information dominance to win in today’s war is critical. This can be done through Information Operations, which were effectively employed by the JTF Marawi-IO cell. Among the best practices of the JTF Marawi-IO cell in the battle of narratives were countering the enemy’s propaganda by denying them access to digital platforms, using adequate words, appropriate actions, and strong imagery in our communication products during the Marawi crisis.
Adopting the same dynamic military action and the spread of correct and timely information will ensure the accurate management of pre and post-planned information and communication strategies in fulfilling our mission objectives of the future.
Engaging the Community
As part of the Army’s initiative to ensure and sustain peace and security in the areas affected by the crisis, it is important that community support programs are conducted in all conflict-affected communities.
Some of the lessons learned from the Marawi City campaign, particularly in relation to the military’s engagement with different stakeholders, can be a source of good insights that can be shared or included among the talking points in Peace and Order Council meetings in the barangays and municipalities, in order to highlight the importance of involving all sectors of society to work together in resolving peace and security problems/threats/crises, and in preventing violence in their localities.
Strengthening InterAgency and Multi-Sectoral Approach
The interagency and multi-sectoral approach of the Army proved to be efficient during the Marawi crisis. With the proper coordination, collaboration, exchange of information, and cooperation among the PNP, AFP, LGUs, and other government agencies, security and other social issues and concerns can easily be addressed within the community level. To prevent the recurrence of the same crisis, this approach can be strengthened by directly addressing the conditions that encourage individuals/groups to embrace violent extremism and refer them to the concerned institutions or agencies.
In addition, government support for madrasahs and other schools to give quality education to alleviate illiteracy can be promoted through an interagency and multi-sectoral approach. This is less exhaustive than persuading armed terrorist sympathizers to abandon their misguided cause.
With the combined, joint, and interagency approach, maintaining peace can be attained by conducting activities such as advocacy or awareness campaigns and Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism-related (P-CVE) programs. This approach can include the tightening of local security measures through the setting up of checkpoints and the implementation of strict local ordinances, which will aid in preventing the perpetuation of terrorism and violence.
Such an approach will open up opportunities for development agencies and other stakeholders who are willing to render social service and provide assistance through donations of CCTV cameras, radios, lighting fixtures, and other equipment for security purposes.
Conducting Training on the Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism (P-CVE)
Prevention is one way of addressing the threat of terrorism and/or extremism. With proper knowledge and understanding of the subject matter, issues and clarifications can be thoroughly discussed. Thus, P-CVE training must be part and parcel of Army education and training.
Addressing the Threat of Terrorism in Social Media
As terrorist groups have been actively engaging people around the world through social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, the risk of generating membership is likely. With this possible threat in cyberspace, cyber security is an important aspect that not only the national government should look into but also the international community. We hope that standards will be erected in order to ensure the proper conduct and use of these media.
(This entry is part of Chapter 6: Operational Environment of the Future.)