Incoming Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya on Tuesday said he is aware of reports that local officials in Sulu province are allegedly involved in kidnap for ransom.
“May mga naririnig ako diyan,” Visaya said “Mga mayors, even brarangay captains, even governors, and vice governors.”
Visaya said people gave them names of the officials allegedly involved, but the military’s sources stopped short of saying this in court. For its part, AFP wants continue investigations on the allegations.
“Talagang mahirap i-confirm yan. Kasi alam mo naman, pagka iyung mga nagsasabi, they would not want to stand as witness. Iyan ang problema natin doon eh,” he said. “Pagdating sa korte, wala kasing gustong mag-witness, for fear for their lives.”
Visaya said the same reports cropped up even when he was a brigade commander in Basilan.
“But it’s really hard to prove it,” he said.
Visaya said after July 1, the AFP would hold a command conference with new President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the direction he wants the military to take.
Duterte has made statements criticizing the current AFP leadership’s purchase of assets for territorial defense like the FA-50 jets, saying the aircraft are an exercise in futility to try and match China’s armed power. He said internal security is of primordial concern.
Visaya, meanwhile, is pushing for the procurement of more assets to fight the Abu Sayyaf, like fast boats for chasing suspected terrorists at sea. He also alluded to the need for more night-fighting capability.
“I would like to fight them 24 hours a day,” said Visaya. “There will be some procurement, and there will be a realignment of resources also.”
Visaya also said some residents of Sulu sympathize with the Abu Sayyaf, making it more difficult for the troops to locate them using intelligence. He said one of his first acts as AFP chief of staff will be to visit Sulu.