FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayeteno admitted that the Philippine government was aware of the existence of terrorist-affiliated organizations in country, but declined to provide further information for operational security concerns.
Cayetano said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have asked many countries for information about the groups that have connections with terrorists and have taken the matter seriously.
Turkish Ambassador Esra Cankorur, in a press conference Thursday in Makati City, warned about the existence of several cultural, education and business groups in the Philippines that were connected with Fethullah Gulen terror organization or FETO.
FETO was allegedly behind the botched coup d’etat attempt against the Turkish government last July 15, 2016 that left 250 people dead and 2,000 others wounded.
Cankorur has identified three schools—2 in Manila, one in Zamboanga—that were affiliated with FETO, as well as business and cultural groups.
“We have asked many countries for information sharing, intelligence sharing and we are taking the matter seriously and doing our own vetting or investigation,” Cayetano told reported in a separate press conference also on Thursday.
While Cayetano declined to provide details on the information obtained from other countries, he noted that the Philippines was dealing with two kinds of terrorists—the fighters and those in charge of radicalizing other potential recruits using educational, business and cultural groups as fronts.
Cayetano said authorities could prevent the entry of terrorist fighters in the country because there were means to identify them as terrorists, unlike those tasked to radicalize people in the guise of legitimate groups.
He said terrorists who are not involved in fighting and bomb-making were very difficult to track because they could enter the country as individuals who have legitimate purposes.
Cayetano said terrorists could even pose as legitimate journalists and would start propagating terrorist ideology once inside.
“The fight against terrorism starts in the process where people are radicalized and these are usually done in areas that are conducive to recruitment,” Cayetano said.
He added terrorism thrived in areas where there was extreme poverty, illegal drugs, conflict and injustice.
“No person would reject an offer for free education or a school building But if you find out that the school is also teaching extremism and not Islam don’t tell me that we don’t have the power not to allow them in or expel [them]from the country,” Cayetano said.