TURKISH terrorists have reached the Philippines and are active in Mindanao using charity organizations and education institutions as fronts, Turkey’s Ambassador to Manila Esra Cankorur warned on Thursday.
Cankorur said that the Fetullah Gulen or FETO, a “secretive and sinister” group, was behind the failed coup in Turkey last year. The foiled government takeover left 250 people dead and thousands hurt.
Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the military was verifying the report.
Cankorur said the Feto group had portrayed itself as a religious movement, an educational institution and a charity group. In the Philippines, it has affiliated with schools and a business chamber.
“Although they present themselves as a religious movement they were able to launch a coup. So this is an indication of what they are capable of,” the ambassador said.
“It was not a traditional military coup, it was a group of people infiltrating into the Turkish armed forces,” she added.
Cankorur said the secretive nature of the organization made it very dangerous.
The ambassador identified several institutions in the country that are affiliated with FETO including two schools operating in Manila. These are the Fountain International School and the Tolerance School in Zamboanga.
She said the Turkish government does not recognize the diplomas given by these schools because they are considered a FETO school.
However, Cankorur could not say if the group was teaching Filipino children radicalism. In Turkey, FETO-affiliated schools preach a way of Islam where children are taught to be loyal to the leader of the group which is also the name of the organization.
“He (Gulen) calls himself the imam of the universe and his followers see him as a messiah,” she added.
The group is also affiliated with the Turkish-Filipino Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific Dialogue Cultural Pillar.
“This organization started as a religious cult but it turned into a terrorist organization in time,” Cankorur said.
“We consider Fetullah Gulen as a terrorist organization and any organization or persons linked or affiliated to that group is like sleeping cells,” Cankuror said in a television interview.
She added that it was possible that the group might be linked with the Islamic State (IS).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday said the Philippine government was checking the information provided by the Turkish envoy.
“We are doing our own vetting or investigation together with agencies that have capability of doing that, so while the DFA does its own investigation, we also make full use of the military and police and the national security intelligence apparatus,” Cayetano told reporters in a briefing after attending the Philippines and Laos Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC).
“I know that the ambassador from Turkey will understand that we have to do our own vetting and investigation and we are very thankful to countries who are giving information but we have to do our own investigation,” he added.
The Palace said the military is verifying the report.
“The military is verifying the statement of Turkish Ambassador Esra Cankorur regarding the presence of Turkish terrorists, particularly the Fetullah Gulen Movement, in the Philippines,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
The Palace official said the Philippine government would also look into the group’s alleged involvement in terrorist activities or in aiding and abetting terror groups.
“We will investigate organizations abetting or aiding terrorism and will hold them accountable, especially those that may be working as fronts for terrorist and criminal activities, as alleged by the ambassador,” Abella said.
“We are also working closely with all other nations to combat terrorism. This is now a global threat that can be better addressed through a unified effort,” he added.
with CATHERINE S. VALENTE