By Genalyn Kabiling
Southeast Asian nations must remain alert against terrorism especially since the coronavirus pandemic has “not killed” the lingering security threat, President Duterte said Friday.
The President has cautioned the regional bloc that terrorism remains “alive,” citing the “unconscionable” attacks during relief efforts amid the public health emergency.
Duterte raised his concern about the threat of terrorism during the 36th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit hosted by Vietnam through video conference.
“While the challenges we face due to COVID-19 are considerable, we must never forget that there are also other threats that can further undermine our efforts,” he said. “The pandemic has not killed terrorism. It remains alive, lurking in the shadows,” he said.
Duterte mentioned that terrorist elements strike even during government relief operations in some countries. “At a time of great need, these acts are unconscionable. We must, therefore, be always on the alert,” he said.
The President’s pronouncement comes amid the controversy generated by the proposed anti-terrorism law that is awaiting his signature. Many groups have opposed the anti-terrorism bill, warning that its alleged arbitrary provisions can be abused to target enemies and critics.
Malacañang earlier said the President will personally review the anti-terrorism bill for any unconstitutional infirmity before deciding whether to sign it into law. The bill seeks to strengthen the government’s policy against terrorism by allowing longer detention and surveillance period of terror suspects, among others.
Early this week, the President branded the communist rebels as among the major security threats in the country. He directed the military to hit hard against the high-value targets in the rebel group. The communist rebels posed more danger than the Abu Sayyaf group, he added.
“Terrorism is number one in our list,” Duterte said during a televised address Monday night.
Duterte recently deplored the communist insurgents for attacking government troops engaged in relief operations for communities affected by the quarantine. Peace talks have been suspended since 2017 over the rebel atrocities committed against government troops.