PNP’s active role against terrorism draws US praiseBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – A US State Department report released Wednesday said that the Philippines’ shift from military to civilian forces helped strengthened the country’s fight against terrorism.
In its 2011 Country Reports on Terrorism, the US State Department said the Philippines maintained strong coordination with the US, particularly in its Anti-terrorism Assistance program, which provided tactical and investigative training to support the transition from military to civilian counter-terrorism authority in Mindanao.
It cited President Benigno Aquino III’s implementation of his 2011-2016 Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP), which it said required a “whole of nation approach” to achieving peace and security by increasingly transferring internal security functions from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Joint military/police task forces and inter-agency operations cells were created in the southern Philippines in Zamboanga, Sulu, and Basilan, and an anti-kidnapping-for-ransom group was created in Marawi with military and police participation,” it said.
“The PNP also established a national Crisis Action Force that combined ground, air, and marine units into a unified terrorist/crisis first response unit. The increasing role of the police in maintaining internal security in conflict-affected areas will permit the AFP to shift its focus to enhancing the country’s maritime security and territorial defense capabilities,” it added.
It said the conduct of terrorist groups in the country, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) “remained constrained” and were “generally limited to criminal activities designed to generate revenue for self-sustainment, such as kidnapping or extortion.”
“Nonetheless, members of these groups were suspected to have carried out bombings against government, public, and private facilities, primarily in the central and western areas of Mindanao, others were linked to extortion operations in other parts of the country,” it said.
It also cited the country’s support in the establishment of an Experts’ Working Group to facilitate counter-terrorism cooperation as an important factor during its participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus.
“Through US-sponsored anti-terrorism training, the PNP developed contacts with law enforcement agencies in Indonesia and Malaysia,” it said.
In terms of law and enforcement, the report also cited the country’s creation of the Coast Watch System as important “to coordinate maritime security operations and help the country protect its maritime boundary against transit by violent extremists.”
It also cited the government’s continuation of its counter-radicalization program Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), a program headed by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process which was launched in Mindanao during the summer “to bring peace and development to conflicted areas.”