The Islamic State-linked terrorists’ continued recruitment of young fighters in the country is on government’s anti- terror radar, a Palace official has said.
In a roundtable interview with The Manila Times, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar assured the public that the Philippine government was closely monitoring the recruitment by terrorist group Daulah Islamiyah, which is connected to the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups.
Andanar was reacting to The Times’ investigative report about the systematic recruitment of the vulnerable youth and adult population by IS-linked terrorists.
“Children from indigent families in Mindanao were sold by their own parents to at least one of the Daesh-linked imams from Marawi,” a military intelligence officer told The Times.
For many of the parents of the estimated 2,000 child soldiers in Marawi, it was very difficult to say no given the lack of economic opportunities and fear of offending powerful persons in the community, the report said.
“It’s on the radar of the government. The President has been speaking openly about it, about the ISIS coming from Iraq and Syria, especially those who are Filipinos, Indonesians, the Malaysians coming home to their respective countries and moving back to the Philippines. What are they going to do here?” Andanar said, using another name for the IS.
“It’s really a big problem. They’ve been recruiting left and right and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, we believe they’re on top of the situation,” the Palace official added.
But Andanar said it has to be a “comprehensive solution,” which needs the cooperation of the government agencies, particularly the Department of Education (DepEd), as well as experts from the government’s countering violent extremism (CVE) program.
“It’s a big issue. That’s why we’re asking the Department of Education to really come in and put up schools in areas where they are not present…The President just had a meeting recently with the Indonesian officials and they talked about the strategies from Indonesian on how to deal with terrorism problems, violent extremism through education,” he said.
“And there are other Middle Eastern countries who are willing to help also so that we can form, we can come up or formulate a very good countering violent extremism (CVE) program here in the Philippines, to counter the recruitment of this Daulah Islamiyah in Mindanao,” Andanar added.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently met with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in Davao City, where he expressed his intention to improve the Philippines’ maritime security cooperation with Indonesia to stop terrorists from entering the country.