Blaming Americans will set back peace process

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

The so-called WikiLeaks cables purportedly revealing US involvement in the botched PNP Special Action Force operation in Mamasapano that resulted in the death of 44 SAF troopers is clearly being manufactured by leftists to shift the blame on a foreign government, a retired intelligence analyst informed Spy Bits. Certain groups known for being anti-US are using the opportunity to do some finger pointing of their own, claiming that the US has been funding the country’s counter-terrorism efforts against extremist groups that include the Jemaah Islamiyah and other al-Qaeda linked terror groups.

No such thing, our sources from the intelligence community said, telling us that American involvement in the Mamasapano tragedy was limited to sharing intelligence information – something that they also do with other countries that are waging war against extremists. The Mamasapano operation was launched to arrest Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir a.k.a. Marwan, an expert bomb maker who is believed responsible for numerous bombings in the Philippines.  

Marwan belongs to a family of terrorists, with a brother now jailed in Indonesia while one is detained in a prison facility in the US. After the Bali bombing, Marwan hid in Mindanao, training local and foreign militant groups about bomb making – with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters member Basit Usman (who evaded arrest in Mamasapano but was reportedly seriously wounded and is now in hiding) as one of his top students.

Aside from the US, other countries have been exchanging intel information with the Philippines to enhance counter-terrorism efforts, including Australia that was also after Marwan’s head because of the 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia where over 200 people were killed, most of them Australian tourists. In fact, intelligence sharing between countries is being heightened to counter the creeping influence of ISIS, with jihadists spreading out to target countries after obtaining training in Syria and Iraq. 

A lot of Filipinos are actually relieved that the US is helping the Philippines in the fight against terrorism by way of training for Filipino troops and in the use of sophisticated technology. It was with the help of US intelligence and technology that the Philippine military was able to pinpoint Abu Sayyaf strongholds, resulting in the rescue of hostages and the capture of Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot in 2002.

But to claim that the Americans orchestrated and directed the operation in Mamasapano is simply ridiculous, the intelligence source emphatically said, adding that putting the blame on the US will set back the peace process and the passage of the BBL. No US drones were used contrary to the claims of so-called witnesses – unless the PNP now has its own drones, the source said.

Passport delays feared

Insiders at the DFA expressed concerns that the issuance of e-passports could suffer delays because of the continued “unavailability” of APO Production Unit for a formal meeting with French technology company Oberthur Technologies, the e-passport provider that is also the current passport maintenance support team.

According to the source, APO is a “recognized government printer” (RPG) that was picked to handle the e-passport project after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas told the DFA it was no longer interested in the passport business, and will only fulfill its commitment to supply the booklets until 2018. Early this year, the DFA formally informed concerned parties that it is signing a one-year maintenance agreement with APO as the selected RPG (the other one being the National Printing Office), instructing the printing company to likewise sign a one-year maintenance support contract with Oberthur as technology provider since the latter has the technological capability to support the system – precisely to prevent disruptions on the passport service, the source said.

Last Jan. 15, the passport maintenance contract between the BSP, the DFA and Oberthur (as the e-passport system provider) expired. Since that time, Oberthur has been maintaining the passport system without benefit of a live contract because of APO’s unexplained unavailability to formally meet with the French technology firm.  Aside from legal risks, Oberthur (which figured in the “Arrovo” controversy where millions of P100 bills were printed with the misspelled name of former president Gloria Arroyo) is facing considerable financial strain in continually maintaining and supporting the system sans a live contract – which could eventually force it to pull out its team to the detriment of passport applicants, in particular overseas Filipino workers, the source said.

It can be recalled that APO – a government controlled corporation – has figured in a number of controversies, among them an allegedly rigged bidding involving a P59 million contract with the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) for the printing of seaman’s books. A group of seafarers filed a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, alleging that Marina gave the contract to APO despite the latter’s alleged incapability to print and supply 200,000 copies of seafarer’s books, citing the delays in the delivery of the booklets which has affected Filipino seafarers. 

Thousands of jobs for Filipinos in Qatar

Speaking of OFWs, the government of Qatar has reportedly reserved over 90,000 visas for Filipinos who will be employed in various sectors. Apparently, Qatari employers prefer Filipinos in certain job categories, citing English proficiency plus  experience and capability. According to data from the POEA, the Philippines has received more than 78,000 job orders from Qatar – the richest country on earth with a per capita GDP of $98,800 – with an estimated 200,000 Filipinos currently working and living in the oil-rich state.

Incidentally, Qatar won the right to hold the 2022 World Cup, but critics have alleged irregularities in the bidding process. An investigation, however, recently cleared the Gulf state, with the Qatar 2022 World Cup Committee saying they were “singled out” by certain biased groups.


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