The Philippines’ National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP P/CVE) has laid down the 6 main sectors that are most susceptible to VE.


1.) Community – As stated in the NAP P/CVE, the presence of various drivers to extremism in the community such as marginalization, discrimination, inequality, structural problems make the community vulnerable to radicalization that leads to VE. Because of this, it is vital to identify these drivers that contribute to the openness of the community to VE.


In both Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the Philippines, the NAP P/CVE states radicalization can take place because of underdevelopment, poor governance, land problem, displacement, military and police abuses, and exclusion. Sharing these grievances against a perceived common enemy which is the state’s security forces, rebel fighters can easily associate with and be part of criminal gangs, private armies of local warlords, secessionist groups, communist terrorist groups, and other armed groups.


Therefore, while local terrorist groups (LTGs) are seen to be heavily focused in Mindanao, the dispersed terrorism-related attacks and other forms of violence persisting in various areas of Luzon and Visayas makes VE a national rather than just a Bangsamoro concern. This is also the reason why the Philippines has a stake in realizing a stable, secured, and developed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).


2.) Persons Deprived of Liberty with Terrorism-Related Cases (PDL with TRC) in Jails and Violent Extremist Offenders (VEOs) in Prisons – In 2015, the Penal Reform International Prisons discussed that penitentiaries could play a critical role in both triggering and reinforcing the radicalization process. The number of prisoners in prison for violent extremist and terrorist offenses is believed to be increasing globally. The treatment of these prisoners is a defining issue for prison services who must fulfill human rights obligations, ensure their rehabilitation and reintegration, and maintain the safety and security of all prisoners in their care. It was also commented that the terrorist group ISIS recruit prisoners to VE through promoting the idea that this will help to compensate or atone for their offending and the harm they may have done to their family. These prisoners succumb to VE because of the poor conditions in prisons, including overcrowding. The discussion centered on whether to disperse prisoners deemed to be at risk of radicalizing other prisoners within the general prison population or to hold them separately in concentrated units. Several participants from prison authorities emphasized that holding prisoners in isolation from others was damaging to physical and psychological health and well-being and likely to prevent rehabilitation. The lack of access to adequate health care as well as long periods in pre-trial detention can create a context in which radicalization can flourish and where the implementation of prevention programs is challenging to accomplish. How security forces deal with the investigation stage of proceedings can also be a driver for radicalization and reinforce a sense of grievance and victimhood. Policymakers must decide whether extremist offenders should be subject to regular rehabilitation and reintegration interventions or whether new programs are needed that are specifically tailored to their unique needs and challenges.


Jones (2016) discussed the situation in the two main correctional facilities in the Philippines: The New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and the Metro Manila District Jail (MMDJ). The NBP appeared to integrate terrorist inmates into the general prison population while the MMDJ segregated its terrorist inmates from the mainstream prisoners. The NBP’s environment includes overcrowding, where overstayers become the major problem. This is caused by an ineffectual judicial system that contributes to the development of prison gangs. The NBP prison population includes around 45 individuals who are known to be terrorist offenders due to their associations with proscribed terrorist groups. Terrorist inmates are given no particular classification and are not treated any differently to other prisoners. Over a period, fitting in with gang culture appears to become a primary objective for survival, and somehow, radicalizing other inmates becomes a secondary consideration. Pressures to conform to the prison environment and the demands of the various dominant social groups seem unavoidable. On the other hand, in the MMDJ, mainly in the Special Intensive Care Area – 1 (SICA – 1) building, there are four levels: lower floor -terrorist inmates; second floor -New People’s Army (NPA) inmates; third floor -Chinese drug traffickers; and the fourth floor -TB sufferers. There are about 250 suspected of being members of terrorist organizations. This detention facility also has a problem with overcrowding. In July 2014, a video appeared on the internet showing prisoners performing a bay’ah to al-Baghdadi from within SICA – 1 facility.  In SICA – 1, there are signs of conversion to Islam of other inmates on the upper floors. In most cases, such modification is a healthy step for rehabilitation and minimizes the pains of imprisonment.


The NAP P/CVE discussed that empirical evidence shows how prisons can potentially serve as breeding grounds for radicalization and recruitment. The US detention center in Camp Bucca, Iraq is considered as instrumental in the forming of ISIS, where nine of its top members were incarcerated and given the time and space to deepen their extremist beliefs and radicalize other detainees. Indonesia is similarly hurdling the challenges of prison-based radicalization which persists due to overcrowding, co-location of hardened ideologues and ordinary inmates, and lack in number and capacity of prison staff to manage high-risk prisoners. With these problems and the lack of coordinated efforts between government agencies and non-government organizations, deradicalization programs fail to be effective. As a result, radicalized detainees continue to conduct terror acts when released as demonstrated by those who staged the Jakarta attack in 2016 after being radicalized by ideologues in an Indonesian prison.


This same set of problems also exist in the Philippines. Subsequently, it makes separation and distinct handling of high-risk PDL with TRC and VEOs from general inmate and prisoner populations as well as implementation of counter-radicalization, deradicalization, and aftercare programs doubly difficult. Such broad challenges in the country’s jail and prison systems are creating conditions for radicalization to occur and progress among the PDL or those awaiting and undergoing trial or awaiting final sentence, and the prisoners or those who are serving sentences.


3.) Religious Leaders – Across the globe and among different cultures and traditions, religion is being misused, in different degrees and forms, directly or indirectly, as motivation, reason, or justification for committing violence to advance a cause. The NAP P/CVE discussed Al-Qaeda and ISIS are the most infamous ones for capitalizing religion to have a wide range of influence in their radicalization activities, spanning from Middle East to Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines.


At the height of the Marawi City siege, some Muslim religious leaders were said to have an unsure stand or mixed feelings on the Maute Group. The danger that this posed arose from their unawareness of the radicalization happening within this group and this resulted in several violent extremist acts that they were helpless to act against.


As mentioned in the NAP P/CVE, the said ambivalence showed the vulnerability of the Muslim religious leaders to extremist influence due to the varying streams of Islamic schools of thought prevailing in the Philippines.


4.) Learning Institutions – Another vulnerable sector to VE identified by the NAP P/CVE are the different learning institutions such as schools, colleges, and universities; and the Madrasah. These educational centers may be exploited by violent extremists to influence and radicalize the minds of the children and the youth. On the other hand and more importantly, these institutions can also serve as venues to promote peace and prevent the spread and counter the influence of radical ideologies.


5.) Social Media Users – The NAP P/CVE discussed the internet has made being part of the global community easy. With its scope and ease of access, one can reach out to many people at once and all kinds of information can be sent and received regardless of geographical boundaries. Put into the wrong hands, this technology can be used as an engine for the spread of extremist ideas.


Therefore, online radicalization that leads to VE happens in the realm of cyberspace as individuals, who are otherwise hard to reach through traditional means, become exposed to a belief system or ideology that encourages the use of violence to realize political, social, or religious goals. Through social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube and other websites facilitating exchanges, extremists can interact with individuals anywhere in the world and build a common worldview where radical ideas and violence are normalized and even glorified.


6.) OFWs and Overseas Scholars – As stated in the NAP P/CVE, the heavy concentration of Filipinos living and working in Western Asia or the Middle East makes them a target for recruitment or direct attacks by extremist groups. Thus, protecting the Filipinos overseas from radicalization and VE is a pressing security challenge for the Philippine government. Meanwhile, efforts to partner with countries concerned are continuously being done as part of the country’s counter-terrorism efforts. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for instance, has recognized this problem and called on the Muslim scholars in the Philippines who were mostly educated in the Middle East and Africa and are operating Madaris, mosques, and other religious organizations to help in the prevention and countering of VE.


Further, religious scholars trained abroad are also exposed to radical teachings of some of the sponsoring organizations and religious and educational institutions that finance their studies. Hence, programs to raise their awareness about radicalization, strengthen the monitoring of sponsoring organizations, and forge partnerships with countries concerned must be pursued to reduce the vulnerability of OFWs and students abroad to radicalization that leads to VE.



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