Manila: Eduardo Ano, who headed the military against extremist elements during the country’s one of the most trying periods, has formally assumed his position as Interior Secretary.
Instead of battling just communist rebels and hardline Islamists as he did during a large part of his career as a military officer, Ano will now be squaring off with the drug underworld, corrupt officials and criminals.
“Under my watch, the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) will relentlessly and resolutely wage a campaign to rid the country of illegal drugs, criminality, and corruption. The threats of communism and violent extremism will also be met head-on,” says Ano said in a speech at the DILG headquarters in suburban Quezon City on Wednesday.
Prior to assuming the post, Ano spent three months as Undersecretary of the DILG.
“I will strongly uphold our primary mandate to ‘promote peace and order, ensure public safety and further strengthen local government capability aimed towards the effective delivery of basic services to the citizenry,” he adds.
an Interior Secretary, Ano’s office also oversee strategic decisions concerning operations of the 170,000 Philippine National Police (PNP) force.
“As for local and police officials, and all engaged in crime groups, you will be held accountable and will be dealt with uncompromisingly for violating our laws,” says Ano.
Corruption, abuse and incompetence had been a major concern in the national police force, an organisation, which during the 70s and the 1980s, had been regarded with fear by the citizenry.
Under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, the PNP had been embroiled in accusations of involvement in extrajudicial killings, particularly of drug criminals.
Ano said the ranks of local police and its officials shall be “cleansed” to “separate the bad eggs.”
“Local government accountability and performance is one indicator which will enable us to reach out to more Filipinos, ensuring that we are fulfilling our mandate. Thus, we will make certain that we strike a balance between our national and local government unit (LGU) driven initiatives,” explains Ano.
Ano headed the military when it was confronting violent extremism in Central Mindanao. Followers of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon had merged with a clan-based group of terrorists led by the brothers Omarkhayyam and Abdullah Maute in May 23, 2017, fomenting an uprising in Marawi City. The extremists took their inspiration from activities of the Daesh in the Middle East.
Foreign groups sympathetic to the cause of the extremists flocked to Marawi City to join the fight.
What followed was one of the worst urban fighting that the country had witnessed since the Second World War as government forces unleashed air and ground operations to dislodge the militants.
In the aftermath, the Maute brothers and their followers were nearly wiped out as well as Hapilon.
Ano retired in mid-October with the defeat of the militants.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he believes that while the militants appear to be on a hiatus, they are not completely putting their guard down. “It is the belief of the Armed Forces and the police that there is a continuing reorganisation of the rebellious forces to fight against the government and to again conduct a Marawi-type operations sometime in the future,” he said.