Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), appealed for public support Saturday to help authorities eradicate the threat of terrorism in the country which has since shifted into suicide bombing.
Gapay made the remark days after the tragic bombings in Jolo, Sulu perpetrated by two suicide bombers which killed 15 persons — eight soldiers, six civilians, and a police commando — and injured 74 others.
“Terrorism remains a threat to any democracy. We appeal to all freedom-loving Filipinos to join hands with your Armed Forces of the Philippines as we strengthen our efforts to secure our borders and provide a safe environment for Filipinos,” he said.
“This week we have been reminded of the volatile security situation in Sulu and how the threat of terrorism and extremism continues to affect the lives of civilians in Western Mindanao. This threat persists and the twin suicide bombing in Jolo last Monday shows how it has evolved over the years,” he added.
Dr. Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence, and Terrorism Research, said the Jolo blasts have become the “new face” of terrorism in the country.
Banlaoi, in a radio interview with DZBB, said suicide bombing may take the form of family suicide terrorism, female suicide terrorism, and juvenile suicide terrorism.
According to Banlaoi, family suicide terrorism involves members of one family in carrying out the attacks.
He said such was the case in the recent Jolo bombings, where one of the suspects was believed to be the widow of another ASG suicide bomber who blew himself up in a military detachment in Indanan, Sulu in 2019.
Banlaoi said that female suicide terrorism — which is also evident in the recent Jolo bomb attacks — and juvenile suicide terrorism utilize women and children to conduct the attacks.
“I hope juvenile suicide terrorism does not happen in our country,” Banlaoi said.
As such, Gapay said the public plays a vital role in ensuring peace and order in the communities as he emphasized that national security “is a shared responsibility.”
“National security is a shared responsibility that requires trust, respect, and cooperation from the citizenry. Everyone should be aware of their surroundings and report all suspicious persons, doubtful activities, and left behind personal belongings while remaining vigilant at all times,” he said.
He added that the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020 can only do so much if the public won’t cooperate with the military and police in enforcing the new law.
“The Anti-Terror Act of 2020, despite enhancing our capability to prevent such careless hatred, will fail without the mindful cooperation of every Filipino,” Gapay stated.
Gapay honored the sacrifices of the State forces killed in the recent explosions even as he vowed that the military will remain “unshaken, steadfast, and committed” in fulfilling their mandate of protecting the people and securing the nation.