MANILA - Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Friday said the Marawi crisis could have been prevented had the government consulted with all levels of society.
Ramos said the government could consult with representatives of different sectors through mechanisms like the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). He said only party leaders are being consulted now.
"My advice is a little too late but please take it or leave it because it's a very sound advice: the Marawi crisis could have been prevented if only there was more of what we call in ASEAN musyawarah-mufakat," Ramos told reporters at the sidelines of the Conference on Peace and the Prevention of Violent Extremism in Southeast Asia.
Musyawarah means consultation, mufakat means consensus, he said.
"Consultation and consensus, musyawarah-mufakat. Now the consultation is only among the party leaders. Ano yun? Patronage politics."
Asked to react, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said consultation was conducted but had to be done discreetly as troops tried to strike at the leadership of the terrorists.
Esperon reiterated government had prior intelligence which prompted the May 23 operation to capture Isnilon Hapilon and that there were persistent reports that terrorists had wanted to strike at Iligan or Cagayan de Oro as well.
Saying it was not an excuse, Esperon said there was no perfect intelligence and it was up to authorities to act on this.
"We saw it coming. We have been getting reports from the time that the Maute clan have been in Butig a town nearby near Marawi until they moved to Marawi itself, also the time that Hapilon came in.. Of course, there had been consultations but we wanted to of course be discreet on a lot of things because we want to strike at the leadership immediately," Esperon told reporters.
"I will go by the observation that many things would have been avoided had had there been more consultations but we have to be consider obtaining leadership as well as the circumstances of the area, terrain, and the strength itself of the Maute or the ISIS."
Esperon said the battle area has been tremendously reduced and that information indicated that Hapilon was still inside the battle area, which he said has been restricted in the area of Lake Lanao.
"We are guarding Lake Lanao, and just the same it's a built up area, so we are very careful about this. They still have hostages and that hae been one primary consideration in the operations, saving as many lives as possible, meaning the lives of those hostages even if they had been reported to have been forced to be converted to Islam," Esperon said.
Esperon said the public must "be patient" for now, as he emphasized that the government is very eager to begin Marawi rehabilitation.
Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, stressed the need for vigilance against the return of about a thousand Southeast Asian fighters who fought for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq after military operations there wind down.
"Many of these recruit family members. Now as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria wind down because of military campaign by the other side. Many of these Southeast Asians are already on the move, either they go to other part of the Middle East or they return home," Ong said.
"These returnees as we call them will contribute to a threat for our Southeast Asian security, they go back to their home country. As far as we know there are Malaysians, Filipino, Indonesian, as well as a few Singaporeans."