ABOVE THE LAW

BY AYIN DREAM D. APLASCA

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

IN THE opening ceremonies of the 31st ASEAN Summit, President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged the importance of discussing the problems commonly affecting countries. These problems are extremism, narcotics trade and piracy.

Among the three problems mentioned, I believe that extremism is the root of almost all problems of the country. Why? A lot of people have various ideologies considered to be far from the acceptable attitudes of society.

Here in the Philippines, the war that raged in Marawi City had just ended. It tore people apart and forced millions of Filipinos to open their eyes to a new order that threatens our country.

We cannot blame the President if he overemphasizes this. A lot of events have happened triggered by extremism – the Louvre knife attack, the Westminster Bridge attack, Saint Petersburg bombing, Stockholm truck attack, Champs Elysees attack in Paris, the attack on Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester (England), the van ramming and stabbing in London, van ramming in Barcelona, terror on the tube, truck ramming cyclists and pedestrians in New York City.

Extremism is a threat. It is violence and it ranges from groups and individuals. They use the internet and social media to recruit and incite violence. However, their approach is more conventional because it is hardly identifiable and unpredictable.

In our country alone, there is the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) that is known for its brutality and targeting civilians. Their system is to target Westerners for kidnap-for-ransom schemes. Their presence in southern Philippines poses a threat to the region.

The clash in Marawi was another example. And the threat of extremism did not end there. The ISIS-inspired Maute group that attacked the city was endowed with a trans-territorial ambition of creating a regional caliphate.

Of course, all of these need joint action beyond the nation-state cooperation. This means there is a need to build initiatives on how to counter extremism in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). There is also a need to reach bilateral agreements when it comes to military security, border patrol, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and anti-terrorism.

All agencies need to come together and understand that [violent] extremism is more than a community engagement. It includes community policing and counter narratives.

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(Atty. Ayin Dream D. Aplasca practices her profession in Iloilo City. She may be reached thru ayindream.aplasca@gmail.com/PN)