Manila: Terror groups like Maute and the Abu Sayyaf are taking advantage of the quick access afforded by cyberspace to recruit fighters and promote their own brand of religious extremism, officials said.
Police Chief Insp. June Paolo Abrazado of the Anti-Cybercrime Group said terrorists in the Philippines use internet and social media sites as a platform for their communication, propaganda, fund raising, recruitment, training and radicalisation.
“The internet is no longer an unfamiliar channel for the people to disseminate their limitless thoughts. As much as how it is massive advantage for the ordinary citizens, users with bad intentions benefit from it as well,” he said during a three-day workshop on Counter-Violent Extremism held at armed forces headquarters, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo on April 26-29, 2017.
The workshop aims to educate Filipinos on how violent extremism evolved in the Philippines and how people can help in putting extremism to an end.
The workshop was held amid observations that a growing number of youth as well as mature individuals are being drawn into religious extremism such as that promoted by Daesh in the Middle East and in the Philippines, by groups such as the Maute and Abu Sayyaf,
Previously, the Abu Sayyaf had been mainly recruiting from the areas it operates, which is Western Mindanao, but now, it had been observed that it is getting more adherents from outside its known areas of operation.
Recently, Superintendent Maria Cristina Brugada-Nobleza of the Davao regional police admitted to being a recruit by the Abu Sayyaf through her partner, Renierlo Dongon.
Nobleza and Dongon, who reportedly had been living together as husband and wife, were apprehended at a government checkpoint in Clarin, Bohol.
The duo were trying to aid a group of on-the-run Abu Sayyaf bandits involved in a failed kidnapping and terror expedition in Bohol nearly two weeks ago.
Reports said Nobleza, whose former husband was a ranking police officer, had converted to Islam and had been helping the Abu Sayyaf.
Armed Forces’ chief-of-staff Gen. Eduardo Año said he has nothing against converting to other religion, however it is a different matter if they are involved in acts of terrorism.
The Abu Sayyaf, as well as the Maute, profess their faith to a brand of Islam that has a radical interpretation of the Sharia.
“There is nothing wrong with ‘Balik Islam’ or Muslim converts as we have freedom of religion what we are looking at are associated with the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf. Converts from these groups have became radicalised,” he said.