US envoy calls for vigilance as terrorism threats continue despite pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Washington’s top diplomat in Manila urged U.S. and Philippine officials to remain vigilant as terrorism threats continue despite the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
On May 11, the U.S. and the Philippines held a virtual workshop on counterterrorism to enhance the collaboration and coordination between the two countries on terrorist investigations and prosecutions amid the health crisis, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement on Wednesday.
In his opening remarks during the workshop, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim said: “No country can fight the battle against terrorism alone because terrorists recognize no borders, and they honor no laws.”
“Terrorists view a global crisis as an opportunity. So public officials must be vigilant against this threat, even in the midst of a public health crisis. We are thrilled to be able to build on our strong counterterrorism cooperation,” he said.
“I am confident that the initiatives like this workshop will continue to strengthen our shared fight against terrorism,” Kim added.
Justice officials from the US and the Philippines participated in the virtual workshop which was hosted by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance, and Training (DOJ-OPDAT).
The workshop, which featured a panel discussion on counterterrorism investigations, included 65 participants.
During his opening remarks, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Bruce Swartz of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division stressed that the use of battlefield evidence is critical in criminal prosecution.
Cooperation among governments in sharing that information can also be vital in prosecution, he added.
“Police and prosecutors need to work collectively around the world. This is a worldwide partnership to identify terrorists that threaten citizens of all nations. I look forward to the work we continue to do together in fighting terrorism,” Swartz said.
For his part, Philippine Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said that terrorist activities continued despite the pandemic and calls for ceasefire terrorist activities continued.
“Clearly, COVID or no COVID, terrorists have no agenda for peace. Their aim is the destruction of lives and properties. It is but fitting that we face these enemies with the full force of our laws,” Malcontento said.
“It is imperative for us to collaborate with our citizens, law enforcement agencies, and other important partners in combatting these terrorist groups and their activities,” he added.
The virtual workshop, the embassy explained, aims to increase bilateral collaboration and coordination on terrorism investigations and prosecutions.
It also seeks to strengthen working relationships among prosecutors during the coronavirus pandemic, which the embassy said have been exploited by terrorists to plot and execute attacks.
The workshop is part of the DOJ-OPDAT’s ongoing program series which includes conferences, training, workshops, and other activities focused on strengthening ties between the US and Philippine law enforcement officials working on terrorism cases.
Among the topics discussed during the workshop were police-prosecutor cooperation, proper handling of explosives and other battlefield evidence, training police and military on the chain of custody issues, and the use of digital evidence.
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