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UN exec: ISIS not yet in PHL, but gov’t should remain alert


A ranking official of the United Nations on Thursday assured Filipinos that the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has not yet penetrated the Philippines, despite earlier reports that the group was recruiting students in Mindanao.

Jean-Paul Laborde, executive director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), however, warned that the terrorist group, in its bid to expand its forces toward the East, would attempt to enter the country.
 
"There is no evidence that they are in the Philippines. But they will try as much as they can. So possible one day they will come," Laborde said after a courtesy call on officials of the Department of Justice in Manila.
 
Laborde added that UN anti-terrorism teams have particularly been deployed in Asia to help the government prevent groups like the ISIS from bringing their forces to the region.
 
"This is what we are doing right now... to prevent people to come in or go there and also to dry up the financial resources [of groups like the ISIS]... [The UN] security council has already given its instructions to member states," said Laborde.
 
The UN official also highlighted the importance of involving civil society, as well as the media, in the fight against terrorism. 
 
Legislation and military measures to combat terrorism also needed to be improved further, he added.

Laborde acknowledged how the Philippine government has significantly improved its efforts to protect human rights and prevent terrorism from thriving in the country since CTED sent a team to conduct a comprehensive visit to the Philippines in 2006.
 
Members of the UN-CTED are tasked to assest if the recommendations the UN body had earlier made on law enforcement and the judiciary to better handle terrorism cases in the Philippines were being followed. 
 
Laborde, who arrived in the Philippines Wednesday night, is heading the second batch of CTED team making the assessment.
 
"They [members of the first team in 2006] were very pleased that the recommendations were being met on each of the sectors," said Laborde.

Campaign vs. terrorism
 
Sue Takasu, CTED senior legal officer who was among the original members of the UN team that visited in 2006, cited the various improvements achieved by the Philippine government against terrorism, including the introduction of the Human Security Act of 2007, the Terrorism Financing Aact and amendments to the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
 
In the implementation aspect of these laws, Takasu mentioned how the government was able to establish an anti-terrorism council under HSA, including the respective special task forces created by the Philippine National Police and the DOJ. 
 
"One of the big changes is that a few years ago, the police and prosecution service could not cooperate with each other. They were very ineffective, resulting in few prosecution of cases," said Takasu.
 
She added: "But now, we can see very close coordination between the prosecution service and the law enforcement."
 
Laborde's statement came some two months after a student from Western Mindanao State University (WMSU) was quoted as claiming last October that the ISIS has been recruiting students there for the past two months, adding that each recruit would be given P70,000.
 
Recruiters also promised more benefits for students who finish their training as ISIS members, the report added.
 
Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro, however, said Department of Education regional directors in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have already denied the existence of such an ISIS recruitment.
 
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has since denied receiving any intelligence reports on ISIS recruitment activities, particularly in Basilan. — RSJ, GMA News
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