MANILA, Philippines – Despite reports that at least two separate extremist groups have pledged their allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a United Nations official gave assurances on Sunday, December 14 that the terror group has yet to penetrate the Philippines.
“(There is) no evidence yet that they (ISIS) are in the Philippines. But they will try to expand their network as much as they can. So, it is possible that one day, they will come,” said Jean-Paul Laborde, executive director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED).
Along with UN-CTED Senior Legal Officer Sue Takasu, Laborde arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday, December 9, to assess the country’s anti-terrorism efforts and capabilities amid the unrest in Syria and Iraq.
In June 2014, ISIS formally declared the establishment of caliphate in the Middle East and East Asia. (READ: ISIS threat to Philippine security)
Since the world organization conducted its assessment in 2006, Takasu said the country’s anti-terrorism efforts has improved.
One of the key gains is on the cooperative relationship between the police and the state prosecutors, compared to 2006 when both sectors clashed as far as the prosecution of suspected terrorists was concerned.
Takasu also lauded the enactment of the Human Security Act of 2007, and the amendment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2002.
“We found that the Philippines has made a lot of progress in terms of anti-terrorism capabilities,” Takasu said.
Points for improvement
There are, however, still areas for improvement.
Laborde said the Philippines should focus on measures such as the military disciplinary approach, improving legislation and prevention of flight to Iraq and Syria.
According to military, there are at least 5 Muslim extermist groups that are vulnerable to influence by ISIS: Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, Rajah Solaiman Movement, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao.
Authorities maintain that there are no confirmation about the reports that some ISIS supporters are in the Philippines.
This year, two suspected ISIS supporters of foreign origins were arrested and deported by the government: Musa Cerantonio, an Australian arrested in Cebu and Abu Ameen Pilal Philipps, a Canadian arrested in Davao City.
Cerantonio was arrested for actively promoting ISIS in Syria and Iraq via social media. – Rappler.com