By Ellson Quismorio
Two Mindanao solons have filed a bill that provides a holistic solution to the problem of violent extremism in the country through a program that combines measures to reduce the appeal of radicalism among the youth and a reintegration process for extremists.
Deputy Speaker, Basilan lone district Rep. Mujiv Hataman and Anak Mindanao Party-list Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan filed on Thursday, September 12, filed House Bill (HB) No. 4585, which seeks to establish a program for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) to fight the ever-present threat of terrorism.
“Violent extremism has no place in a peace-loving society such as ours. It takes lives, hurts people, stunts progress and strikes fear into the heart of peaceful communities. It corrupts religious beliefs and distorts moral standards to serve a vicious end: that is to pursue a political cause through acts of terrorism,” said Hataman and Sangcopan in the bill’s Explanatory Note.
“Ang bill na ito ay para maiwasan at ma-address ang violent extremism at terorismo, at ma-engganyo ang mga miyembro ng mga grupong ito na magbalik-loob na sa lipunan at iwanan ang ganitong klase ng pamumuhay,” Hataman added.
(This bill is meant to address violent extremism and terrorism, and to sway members of these groups to return to society and abandon this way of life.)
The PCVE bill draws its inspiration from the success of the Program Against Violent Extremism (PAVE) implemented by Hataman when he was governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where security forces and the local government units (LGUs) supported each other in fighting violent extremism.
The two lawmakers said that the measure is timely, with the recent bombings in Sulu that “saw the escalation of atrocities carried out by local extremist groups.” The bombing of a military camp in Indanan, Sulu in June this year is the first confirmed case of a Filipino as a perpetrator of a suicide bombing in the country.
Two other recent bombings were perpetrated by violent extremist groups: one was in front of a public market in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, on September 7 where seven people were hurt, while the other was in Indanan, Sulu, on September 9, where the lone casualty was the perpetrator herself.
Under the bill, a returnee from violent extremist groups such as Abu Sayyaf, Maute Group and the like will be considered as such if he or she returns to the fold, reforms and reintegrates into society.
An inter-agency committee will be established to oversee the program under the law. It will be chaired by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of National Defense (DND) as co-chairs.
Among the benefits eyed for returnees include safety and security guarantees, support to relocation or housing services for the returnees and their families, monetary assistance to aid families while processing enrollment into the program, livelihood assistance to improve their socio-economic conditions, reintegration assistance, and educational and training assistance.
Other benefits include enrollment in the National Health Insurance Program, assistance in registering with government entities, healing and reconciliation initiatives to provide psycho-social support to returnees, and assistance as may be determined by the Inter-Agency Committee.
On the prevention side, the measure has provided an array of projects and activities that are envisioned to reduce or completely eliminate the appeal of radicalism to the people, especially the youth. These include activities promoting good governance, upholding the rule of law and eliminating corruption
Likewise, the bill mandates the LGUs to engage communities through the following: developing joint and participatory strategies to prevent the emergence of violent extremism; protecting communities from recruitment; supporting confidence-building measures at the community level; adopting community-oriented policing models and programs that seek to solve local issues in partnership with the community; and developing early warning systems, and local and family-based mentorship programs focusing on vulnerable individuals or groups.
LGUs are also prodded to provide medical, psychosocial and legal service support in communities affected by violent extremism; encourage civic and professional associations to reach out to communities vulnerable or affected by violent extremism; and support the establishment of networks of civil society organizations, youth, and women’s organizations.
“Preventing the radicalization of the youth is vital in our efforts against violent extremism. But winning back those who are already members of extremist groups and supporting them as they return to the fold of the law is equally important,” Hataman and Sangcopan noted.
“The reintegration efforts sought to be implemented by this measure could hopefully contribute to the end of violent extremism in the country,” they continued.