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2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Philippines

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 5 August 2010
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Country Reports on Terrorism - Philippines, 5 August 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c63b62928.html [accessed 17 April 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Terrorist groups active in the Philippines included the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), the New People's Army (NPA), and the Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM). Philippine security forces continued to make progress against terrorist groups. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that it killed 10 ASG members and 165 NPA members in 2009. The Philippine National Police (PNP) claimed that its personnel killed 14 NPA members in 2009. Those apprehended included an RSM cofounder and two bomb makers in Mindanao. U.S. intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance continued to support AFP operations against terrorist elements in the southern Philippines. Additionally, U.S. Department of Justice criminal investigation, police development, and counterterrorism programs trained approximately 1,600 police, supported professional development efforts of the Philippines National Police at 12 sites throughout the country, and provided opportunities for cooperation between law enforcement officials of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Data on terrorist incidents is limited and incomplete; many kidnappings or other acts of violence that indiscriminately target innocent people go unsolved, and some shootings and bombings occur in the course of criminal activity unrelated to terrorism. The Philippines estimated that the NPA began 2009 with 5,240 members, and the ASG began the year 400-strong. These organizations' memberships fell to an estimated 4,700 and 390, respectively, by the end of the year. Kidnappings, associated with both criminal and terrorist groups, continued during the year in Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. On January 15, ASG members kidnapped three International Committee of the Red Cross workers in Jolo, Sulu. All either escaped or were released. The ASG reportedly abducted numerous other individuals, including an Irish priest.

While the NPA continued to disrupt public security and business operations with intermittent attacks on communication and transportation infrastructure throughout the Philippines, it continued to decline in personnel and effectiveness. However, the NPA remained steadfast in its refusal to accept President Arroyo's broad amnesty overtures, turning down offers to negotiate unless its U.S. and international designations as a terrorist organization were rescinded. RSM maintained close links to ASG and JI, and was alleged to have participated in several attacks in the Philippines.

During the year the long-running separatist insurgency in Mindanao boiled over in violence, resulting in thousands of internally displaced persons. Subsequently the government and the insurgents agreed to renew negotiations and the violence waned. Late in the year an election-related violent episode involving two rival Mindanao clans resulted in the massacre of over fifty civilians, including a number of journalists. While not the activities of international terrorism, these developments are indicative of the instability and conflict in the southern Philippines that complicated the government's efforts during 2009 to combat the terrorist groups harboring there.

The U.S. strategy of offering development opportunities in areas at risk for terrorist recruitment continued to isolate the remaining ASG and JI terrorists in the southern Philippines. Philippine military and law enforcement agencies conducted intensive civil-military and internal security operations to eliminate terrorist safe havens in the Sulu Archipelago and central Mindanao.

In the past year, the AFP conducted several key operations that disrupted the ASG and limited its ability to conduct organized attacks. In accordance with Philippine government priorities, the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) provided advice and assistance, including training, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Terrorist groups in the region are also being countered by a robust AFP Information Operations and Civil Military Operations capability that has been bolstered by the JSOTF-P's Subject Matter Exchanges and training.

Law enforcement authorities continued to make little use of the 2007 Human Security Act, which provided additional counterterrorism tools for law enforcement because of key limitations in its application, including stiff fines levied on law enforcement personnel in cases where the suspect is later acquitted or the case dismissed. The Act also provided for the establishment of an Antiterrorism Council to implement counterterrorism efforts in the country and ensure interagency cooperation. According to experts, the newly established Council was not yet fully effective.

The United States continued to receive excellent cooperation from Philippine law enforcement officials in obtaining access to terrorist suspects and witnesses for FBI interviews, and access to criminal, immigration, financial, and biographic records via the mechanisms established in the U.S.-Philippine Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. The U.S. Embassy continued to achieve significant progress in supporting the counterterrorism efforts of the Philippine government, including well-coordinated Embassy programs aimed at strengthening security forces and promoting peace and development in Mindanao. The FBI provided host-nation law enforcement and government authorities with vital information for counterterrorism purposes, including investigation of the financing of terrorism. This proactive partnership with the Philippine government has yielded solid results in combating terrorist elements. Two prominent Filipino fugitives indicted by the FBI were deported to the Philippines by Malaysia and Indonesia. The Filipino fugitive from Malaysia was extradited by the Philippines to the United States. The other Filipino fugitive from Indonesia arrived in the Philippines and was undergoing judicial proceedings for extradition to the United States.

The FBI continued to provide host-nation law enforcement and government authorities with vital information for counterterrorism purposes, including investigation of the financing of terrorism. The FBI conducted numerous judicial custodial interviews of counterterrorism subjects and leaders of the JI, ASG, RSM, as well as rogue members of the MILF. All counterterrorism subjects were advised of their international United States Department of Justice advice of rights and afforded host nation Philippine legal counsel representation when requested. Statements were obtained and put on record for inclusion into FBI counterterrorism case files and investigations as appropriate.

The Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) Program sustained its focus on Mindanao, where the terrorist threat and associated problems were most acute. The program continued to provide training in a wide range of counterterrorism skills, including investigating terrorist incidents, vital infrastructure security, critical incident management, surveillance detection, and investigation and seizure of digital evidence. ATA established the first Philippine National Police Cyber Forensic Unit, in Mindanao. ATA also initiated an Antiterrorism Curriculum Development Project for the Philippine National Police Academy to assist in the development of a comprehensive antiterrorism curriculum. In addition to enhanced capacity building efforts, ATA is fostering and enhancing interregional cooperation between the Philippine National Police and law enforcement agencies from Indonesia and Malaysia.

The U.S. Department of Justice/International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (DOJ/ICITAP) trained 1,601 police personnel, including training PNP personnel in basic police operations and investigation techniques in Sulu Province. DOJ/ICITAP also continued with implementation of the Maritime Police Project, which will equip maritime police in Palawan Province with special patrol boats to monitor the western Sulu Sea bordering Malaysia.

The FBI organized the visit of five senior Philippine police and prosecutors, along with 10 others from Malaysia and Indonesia, to key locations in the United States through the SE Asia Counterterrorism Regional Strategic Initiative. The FBI sponsored seminars focused on counterterrorism issues, current procedures, and the development of future mutually enhancing law enforcement and judicial cooperation.

Other programs included the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (DHS/ICE) development of the Philippine Biometrics Initiative (PBI), whereby fingerprints, photographs, and other information on suspected terrorists were collected and provided to the appropriate Philippine authorities. The Philippine National Police is now the primary recipient of the Biometric Data Collection Kits and collector of the biometric data. The intent of the PBI is to collect biometric information on individuals incarcerated in the Philippines who are associated with known suspected terrorist (KST) groups and to make this information available to U.S. authorities.

The government initially established its anti-money laundering/counterterrorist finance regime by passing the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) of 2001. The AMLA established the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) as the country's financial intelligence unit (FIU). The Council is composed of the Governor of the Central Bank, the Commissioner of Insurance Commission, and the Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. By law, the AMLC is an independent agency responsible for receiving, maintaining, analyzing, evaluating covered and suspicious transactions and investigating reports for possible criminal activity. AMLC's role goes beyond traditional FIU responsibilities and includes the investigation and assisting the Office of the Solicitor General in the handling of civil forfeiture cases.

In 2009, the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) received 82 official requests for counterterrorism action, many concerning groups on the UNSC Resolution 1267 Sanction Committee's consolidated list. In nearly all cases, the AMLC's investigations responding to such requests showed no record of the entities concerned conducting financial transactions in the Philippines.

The Philippines is a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG). The APG conducted a comprehensive peer review of the Philippines AML/CFT regime in September 2008 and subsequently provided 45 pages of recommendations for improvement. The Philippine legislature is now considering an amendment to the AMLA to address these issues.

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