MANILA – Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya on Wednesday said the Senate's approval of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, which seeks to repeal the Human Security Act of 2007, is a step forward in providing a tougher response to the threats of violent extremism and radicalization in the country.
"We are pushing the passage of this because we have to empower our law enforcement here," he said in a forum in Makati City, noting that there are enough safeguards to the proposed law.
He said the Senate's approval of the bill on third and final reading will help strengthen policies against terrorism, and expressed hope that the House of Representatives would also approve the said bill.
"The amendment to the Human Security Act is to make our security law complementary or at least be leveled with similar laws in other countries, kumbaga binatay natin yung ating proposal dun sa ibang bansa (we base our proposal to the other countries) -- that's why the Department of National Defense and the DILG is proposing, is pushing for that,” he said.
He added the government has already implemented several activities to counter violent extremism and prevent the spread of radicalism as well as local insurgency.
Countering violent extremism
Malaya said the government has adopted a strategy to prevent and counter violent extremism to avoid a repeat of the 2017 Marawi Siege -- one of the country’s most prominent acts of terrorism in recent history.
He said the government, through the Anti-Terrorism Council, has adopted the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP/PCVE) to address political, economic, cultural, psychosocial and religious factors of radicalization that lead to violent extremism.
He added that the government has started to conduct a "training of the trainers" program for the enhanced module on PCVE to improve the capacity-development among personnel who will be conducting the PCVE training and workshop in the grassroots.
This module, he said, has already been rolled out to 681 barangays in 37 provinces in the country -- which were identified by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as vulnerable to terroristic attacks.
A barangay module on PCVE was also launched during the Barangay Summit on Good Governance in different areas in the country between 2018 and 2019.
The government is also looking after the Madrasah program in the country, wherein religious schools can easily be infiltrated by the wrong ideologies of radical individuals.
“We are looking at the Madrasah program because out of the 5,000 Madaris schools in the country, only 1,500 are actually registered with either in the Department of Education, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos or the BARMM’s Ministry of Education. The vast majority, meaning the 3,500, are actually unregistered with any branch of the government,” Malaya said.
He added the government needs to keep a close watch on schools to ensure that their curriculum will not be used for violent extremism purposes and that the youth will not be exploited and indoctrinated into terrorism.
Some vulnerable sectors that can be induced to wrong ideologies, he said, are social media users, overseas Filipino workers, and the religious sectors.
“In order to be able to address this concern, the government and the private sector including our partners in the civil society organizations will have to address this concern on the process,” he added.
He said once the "radicalization factors" are addressed, “there must be peace-building efforts," citing the case of some state universities in Mindanao which have peace education programs integrated to their curriculum, and has helped to halt the recruitment process of the terrorist-tagged groups among Mindanaon youths.
“This will avoid the utilization of the school for violent extremism,” he added.
Meanwhile, political analyst Dindo Manhit said countering violent extremism is not an easy task to be done alone by the government.
He said it requires strong coordination of public institutions, the youth, academe, media, civil society, the international community and the private sector to successfully tackle violent extremism. (PNA)