From The Manila Times: “The first line of defense against violent extremism, I believe, is education; creating awareness and cultivating our young people’s critical thinking and resilience will equip them with skills they need to detect and reject violent extremism and make informed decisions and contest extremist ideologies,” (Lacson) said.
Threat groups use social media to spread extremism – Lacson
BY THE MANILA TIMES
MARCH 28, 2019
SEN. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Wednesday said threat groups were using social media to spread violent extremism among young Muslim Filipinos.
In a speech on Wednesday at the Youth Assembly on Violent Extremism and Interfaith Dialog organized by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Lacson cited a report published by a nonprofit international development organization in February 2019, which showed “how social media is becoming a potent tool not only in spreading extremist causes, but also in reaching and recruiting young Filipino [Muslims] in Mindanao.”
“Extremism sympathizers tried to exploit community sentiments on social marginalization, economic inequality and rooted local grievances against the state,” said Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief.
“The first line of defense against violent extremism, I believe, is education; creating awareness and cultivating our young people’s critical thinking and resilience will equip them with skills they need to detect and reject violent extremism and make informed decisions and contest extremist ideologies,” he said.
NCMF head Saidamen Pangarungan said the agency trained Filipino Muslim youth about the true values of Islam, “which is a religion of peace and that Islam demands love and respect.”
“We warned them not to be swayed into the arms of the Jihadi-Salafist doctrine of radical Islam. We urge them to report to the authorities at the first opportunity any movement or infiltration by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants within their ranks,” he said.
“We pursued these youth assemblies with interfaith dialog in Cebu and now in Metro Manila. If our budgetary support will permit, we shall replicate the same in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and in other cities, which are potential targets of terrorism,” Pangarungan said.
“What happened in Marawi should not be allowed to happen again in any other Philippine city. Never again. Marawi should be the first and last victim of violent extremism in the Philippines,” he added.
The Islamic State-inspired Maute group seized Marawi City on May 23, 2017 to establish a caliphate in Mindanao. Government forces ended the siege on October 23 of the same year.
Pangarungan said the NCMF partnered with the United Nations Development Program and Japan in its peace-building project.
Lacson said a more circumspect and proactive approach in countering extremism was needed.
“Coming from the ranks of law enforcers, I have always been acquainted with serious challenges posed by the risks of terrorism and insurgency in our country,” he said.
“Unfortunately, despite the continuous efforts of past and present governments to counter such security threats, recent events tell us that the Philippines remains bedeviled by senseless acts of violence and terror,” he added.
He said figures between 1969 and 2010 showed that the country suffered more than 593 attacks of varying degrees. From 2000 to 2007 alone, bomb attacks carried out by extremists claimed the lives of over 400 civilians and injured over a thousand more.
He lamented that the global terrorism index of 2018 ranked the Philippines as the 10th country most negatively affected by terrorism. “It pains us to see the Philippines in the list of top 10 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan and Somalia. In fact, our country experienced the highest negative impact from terrorism among states in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs.
In Marawi alone, the government reported the death of 900 Maute members and sympathizers, 168 government forces and 47 civilians.
“Furthermore, the fighting in Marawi forced out 72,000 families or 395,000 individuals, many of whom remain displaced to this day,” Lacson said.
“It is even alarming that we have reports of emerging radicalization and extremist armed movement in some parts of our country. One of its visible manifestation was the first confirmed suicide bombing in Jolo in January of this year, which resulted in multiple deaths and injuries,” he said.