Crush the Abu Sayyaf—this was Senator JV Ejercito’s urgent call to President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday. The call was actually his voice of support for Duterte’s strong military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
“Kung kayang tapusin na tapusin na yan kasi hindi naman titigil yan eh. Kung kinakailangan mag-all out war, mag-all out war na (If it can be ended now, and it now. [The ASG] will never let up. If it takes an all-out war [to eliminate them], by all means. All-out war!),” Ejercito said over Radyo Inquirer 990AM.
“We cannot afford another bombing,” he added, also explaining his support of Duterte’s move declaring a state of lawlessness not just in Davao but in the entire country.
“Precautionary measure itong ginawa nya (What he did is merely a precautionary measure),” he assured listeners, explicating that the declaration enables more the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to be on the alert and work together.
He allayed fears of an eventual martial law declaration by saying the declared “state of lawlessness” would last only until the enemy has been neutralized or the dangers have been eliminated. The precautionary measure is better than to have the terror attacks repeated and the president blamed for it again. Some sectors have raised fears that martial law might be declared to intensify the war against illegal drugs and terrorism.
Ejercito also referred to how Duterte explained that the “state of lawlessness” is different from a martial law declaration.
Senator Ejercito, suspended temporarily from the Senate because of a graft case, recalled how Duterte’s predicament was also his at one time during his stint as mayor of San Juan. At the time, he said he ordered the purchase of high-powered arms to stop the frequent bank robberies and holdups in the city.
“Kaya ako naman umaksyon, nag-armas kami. Yun nga lang naging subject ito ng aming kaso. Pero kung ikaw ay leader you have to adapt to the situation (So I did something—we armed ourselves. Unfortunately, it became the subject of our case. But if you’re a leader, you have to adapt to the situation),” Ejercito said.
Similarly, the senator recalled how his father, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, also declared an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) when he was president of the Philippines.
“Even the MILF is on the run already,” the senator said. “Kung hindi lang naudlot ang termino ni Pangulong Estrada siguro tapos na ang problemang iyan (If not for the abrupt end of President Estrada’s term then, that problem would probably be solved by now),” he said.
Former President Estrada was ousted by a people-power protest.
Ejercito cited how the main problem that breeds terrorism in Mindanao continues to be poverty. According to him, the government should aim for both crushing the enemy and addressing poverty and hunger in the region. He explained how rebel groups find it easy to recruit hungry and discontented people.