Malacañang on Thursday denied claims of former President Fidel Ramos that around 100 Filipinos have joined the Muslim extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.
Ramos earlier said the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, have infiltrated Iraq and are being trained as jihadists.
He did not give details but said the ASG has been encouraged by the success of the IS, formerly known known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
IS, which displaced al-Qaeda, recently declared an Islamic caliphate in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
But Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the information shared by the former president has not been verified.
“I understand that former President Ramos mentioned that the information was based on raw reports. We will leave it to the military to comment, if they deem it appropriate,” Valte added in a statement.
On Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gave assurances that the IS does not pose any threat to the country.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said the group that wreaked havoc over Iraq and Syria does not have any connections in the Philippines.
“There is none, they don’t have a capability here,” Zagala added. “We have not monitored any instances where they have come here in the country.”