• Melo Acuna

Anti-Terror Law should provide for rehabilitation

Philippines still at risk from terrorists; whole of government approach needed

MANILA – Director Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta said ISIS remains a serious threat despite the near total loss of its territories and they have shifted to a guerilla strategy.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) Friday afternoon, she said the components that made up the Marawi coalition in the Philippines are still loyal to the ISIS and some of them is in regular touch with ISIS central.

The ISIS website claimed the recent killing of soldiers in Sulu has been described as “East Asia Province.”

“The Philippines is the only southeast Asian country formally recognized as a province of the Islamic State since August 2018,” she added.

Speaking of Indonesia, she said groups are increasingly operation as small autonomous cells “with some tactical communication among individuals but no overall direction.” There are fears that COVID-19 could raise awareness of the destructiveness of a single pathogen or other biological weapon but there’ has been no indication that anyone is thinking in those terms now.

Ms. Jones said there are six areas in Mindanao namely Sulu, Basilan, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Lanao del Sur ad Sarangani which are considered part of the East Asia Wilayah as of late 2019. Hajan Sawadjaan, a Tausug, leads the group in Sulu. There have been reports Sawadjaan was killed though Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana, AFP Western Mindanao Command chief said the Tausug is still alive.

In Basilan, a group of Yakans under Furudji Indama still operates. North and South Cotabato provinces are led by two Maguindanaoans namely Salahuddin Hasan and Aby Turaife, respectively. It is still a question as to who leaders the Maranao group in Lanao del Sur, said Mr. Jones. In Sarangani, a Maguindanaoan leads the group also known as Ex-Tokboy.

Asked of her views on the Anti-Terror Law which President Duterte signed last Friday, July 3, Jones said it would be better if the law would have provisions for the rehabilitation of those found to be terrorists.

She said the law should provide for the convicts’ rehabilitation to make it more effective.

AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana said there are enough safeguards to prevent any excess on the part of law enforcement agencies. He added

General Sobejana said there have been rumors of politicians said to be supportive of armed groups in Western Mindanao though the information needs further validation. He added local government units need to help other government agencies to bring peace and development to the area.

He emphasized the need for whole-of-government approach to end terrorism. Improving the peoples’ lives would help stem terrorism.

Ms. Jones said it is important for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to succeed because any failure at this time would bring former guerillas and the young back to the front lines. (Melo M. Acuña)

Jakarta-based Sidney Jones of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (left) and AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. General Cirilito Sobejana at FOCAP's discussion on Terrorism. (Melo M. Acuna/Screen grab from FOCAP event.)

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