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Palace mum on ‘order’ to crush Abu Sayyaf

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Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MALACAÑANG has neither confirmed nor denied talk that President Aquino had ordered the military and the police to crush the terrorist Abu Sayyaf before the end of his term in June next year.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told the Inquirer the administration’s security strategy against the Abu Sayyaf was “highly confidential.”

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Coloma noted that in the President’s bilateral talks with leaders during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which the Philippines hosted last month, Mr. Aquino had the opportunity to share with them his thoughts on the “importance of deradicalization or removing the elements in the environment that breed extremism and terrorism.”

“At its core, there is still the need to address the fundamentals like freedom from hunger, and poverty is still the basic malady that needs to be uprooted,” he said.

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Asked how the citizenry could help the government address the global terrorist threat, Coloma cited the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan (AFP-IPSP).

IPSP is a concept formulated by former AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, which “recognizes the importance of citizen involvement in the campaign against insurgency and by extension, against terrorism, too.”

In mid-2012, Bautista said stakeholders must contribute for the six-year strategy to be successful.

He was quoted as having said: “Many Filipinos choose to remain with the silent majority, but to be able to win the peace, we need everybody to speak their minds, to declare that we are for peace rather than continuing conflict. We need the involvement of our stakeholders.”

During the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Kuala Lumpur, Aquino heeded the plea of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to punish the kidnappers of a Malaysian national in Mindanao by directing the AFP and the PNP to intensify their operations against the Abu Sayyaf.

Najib had confirmed that it was Malaysian Bernard Then Ed Fen who was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf.

“Shocked and sickened” by the beheading of Fen, Najib called on Philippine authorities to take action on the “savage and barbaric act.”

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The Abu Sayyaf reportedly kidnapped Fen in May from a resort in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.

Despite the kidnapping, the AFP said last month there was no credible terror threat in the country and the public may continue with their normal lives.

The military “has not received any credible threat regarding terror groups that are planning to launch terror attacks in the country,” said AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told reporters they had “warnings about places, especially in places where the public mill about, like malls. If you see suspicious items, report them to the proper authorities.”

Lacierda also said they have not received reports pertaining to the presence of Islamic State (IS) terrorists or their legitimate sympathizers in the country, adding there is no “authentic link” between the terrorist group and the Abu Sayyaf.

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