Expressing alarm over Filipinos reportedly going overseas, particularly to Syria, and possibly serving as foreign fighters alongside jihadists there, police authorities have proposed the creation of a database on locals leaving for abroad, especially the Middle East.
The proposal supposedly was prompted by reports that two Filipinos died fighting alongside Syrian rebels last March and that 100 others have ventured into the Middle East to also serve as foreign fighters there, specifically in Syria.
A highly reliable police source recently told The Manila Times that the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime (PCTC) is urging Malacañang to create a data-monitoring body immediately.
According to the source, a memorandum that the PCTC has sent to Malacañang calls for the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that would monitor and create a database on Filipinos going to the Middle East to possibly become foreign fighters together with other jihadists from overseas.
The memorandum, the source said, was signed by Felizardo Serapio, the executive director of PCTC, and addressed to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, also the chairman of the Anti-Terrorism Council or ATC.
Serapio said in the memorandum, the source added, that the suggested TWG will be headed by the ATC-PMC (Program Management Center).
The proposal to put up the TWG came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) submitted to President Benigno Aquino 3rd a report dated March 20, 2014 on the two Filipinos who died fighting alongside the Syrian rebels with ties to the al-Nusra front of the al-Qaeda.
The memorandum cited another report from the DFA that about 100 Filipinos had traveled to Iran first to undergo military training before proceeding to Syria to serve as foreign fighters.
It noted that Syria has been growing fast as a melting pot of foreign fighters partly because it offers favorable conditions for training and skills enhancement relating to combat.
Syria has been an attractive destination for foreign fighters worldwide, the memorandum said.
It added that the Middle East in general is also fast becoming ground for extremist exposure and acquisition of terrorist skills.
In the memorandum, The Times source said, Serapio voiced fear that radical recruits would put to good use such skills in their home countries.
The memorandum, the source added, mentioned new extremist groups that have been established in Malaysia, Indonesia, China, Thailand and southern Philippines, with some of their members going to the Middle East to serve as foreign fighters.