Effective response to violent extremism

(Philippine statement delivered by Ambassador Teddy Locsin Jr. on April 13, 2018, at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, for the Security Council on the Visit to the Philippines of Permanent Representative Kairat Umarov, chairman of the Security Council Committee, pursuant to Resolutions 1267 [1999], 1989 [2011] and 2253 [2015]). 

Distinguished Chair and Committee Experts,

I AM very pleased that you and your team had a productive and meaningful visit to the Philippines. I could not stress strongly enough to the capital that only those should be invited to brief you who had direct experience with the siege and liberation of Marawi and, by reason of their offices, have a direct hand in counterterrorist operations in general.

I knew how important and useful your visit would be if our side was prepared to share intelligence and offer the widest cooperation. I had told you that our first inkling of a foreign terrorist threat to Southeast Asia came from UN counterterrorism experts who had come to my Mission for visas to brief our intelligence bodies.

This was weeks before Marawi broke out. Those UN experts told me that ISIL was all but finished in the Middle East—that was the good news—but that it would move to countries with soft and porous borders in Southeast Asia. That they wished to visit the Philippines made it clear to me that we should have listened to them. In the event, Marawi came as a complete surprise, and its retaking was achieved at a tremendous price in soldiers’ lives. I told you that the problem with the restoration of Philippine democracy was that it did end conflict, and with that the essential experience of military operations.

After more than 30 years of peace—outbreaks were skirmishes, we woke up to a city taken over by terrorists and the imperative of liberating it with fresh forces not all that accustomed to war and urban warfare at that. Of course, surrender was and is never an option. We could not concede a home and haven for terrorists in our own country. So I wish to thank you, Ambassador Umarov, and your outstanding team, for your thoughtful and very comprehensive report. I also appreciate the active participation of the representatives of the P5, as well as of the Netherlands. Our weakness was intelligence gathering aggravated by a certain disposition toward trust and appeasement, and a misplaced belief in the good faith of those wholly incapable of it as we searched for an end to the Southern conflict. We know better now. And with your advice, we will know more.

Thank you for this opportunity to share Philippine perspectives with you and the Committee by highlighting and reiterating certain points.

Philippine commitment to the UN sanctions regime

The Philippines attaches great importance to the UN sanctions regime that contributes to cutting off the lifeblood of terrorists. I am glad that we are able to maintain our compliance with the various UNSC resolutions. But keep us on our toes in this regard. We shall continue our efforts to include the Maute Group and other individuals and entities associated with ISIL and al-Qaeda in accordance with the Committee’s Sanctions List. We would appreciate your notifying us of other groups we may not know enough to suspect, nor be inclined to suspect, in our search for a secure, just and lasting peace in a democratic country.

As its priority, the Philippine Government had sought to pro-actively counter violent extremism and stop the entry of foreign terrorist fighters. This priority is informed by UN Security Resolutions 2170, 2178 and 2199. They lay out a wide array of practical measures for United Nation member- states to adopt to stop terrorism.

The Philippine government considers, as essential to stopping terrorism, the wider information exchange made possible by a trilateral agreement with Malaysia and Indonesia. This allows maritime patrols to constrict the movement of foreign terrorist fighters. But, as international politics shows, the temptation to pass the buck is always there whenever a threat arises against two or more states who’d rather the other one confront it than itself. As pointed out to the Committee, the political solution to the Bangsamoro problem is also being pursued in earnest to address the threat of violent extremism; without, however, granting an autonomous base of operations to radicalism that will threaten the republic and the region from inside it.

I am glad you heard in great detail about our operations in Marawi and note your recognition of its success. It cannot be overemphasized that, once identified and clearly demarcated, there is only one rational and effective response to violent extremism as we showed in Marawi.

Philippine policy toward counterterrorism

The Philippines is implementing an antiterrorism policy framework anchored on a “whole of nation approach.” We emphasize a multilevel and multidisciplinary effort and we collaborate with domestic, regional and international partners. This is reflected in the Human Security Act of 2007, our antiterrorism law, which requires the coordination of all efforts to suppress and eradicate acts of terrorism and mobilize the entire nation against terrorism. The problem is identifying what the useful efforts are in a particular context, and which parts of the government and society must undertake them. As an intensely democratic country, I was one of the main sponsors of the Human Security Act of 2007; and I recall that as much attention was paid to making it very very hard to abuse the law in a way that would endanger civil rights and liberties, as to use the law for the protection of civil society and democracy.

The Philippine government’s response to terrorism is basically a two-pronged approach: first, addressing terrorism in the immediate term, as we showed in Marawi and as our repeated if at times costly successes in the field demonstrate. And second, addressing it in the long term by taking into account the underlying causes that encourage but do not create terrorism, such as poverty and underdevelopment. This strategy is anchored on our whole of government approach whose results are aimed at benefiting both individuals and communities so as to make terrorism repugnant to their moral sense and irrelevant to their pursuit of a better life. Terrorism must never be an option nor a way out of any situation however desperate. I see no connection whatsoever between poverty and underdevelopment on the one hand and the rise of terrorism on the other. Those factors make it easy for terrorists to operate by making those already vulnerable by reason of poverty, even more susceptible to terrorism’s threat of violence and anarchy. Those who have too little or nothing will not put up a fight at the risk of the only thing of value they have: their bare lives. They don’t have enough at stake in a society where they are deprived, to fight threats to that society or alert authorities of their approach. But none of that makes them terrorists.

International cooperation and Asean

While pursuing an independent foreign policy, President Duterte stresses the need to increase international cooperation to advance our country’s interest. There are times when, to be strong at home, we must lean on friends abroad. But we will never negotiate nor compromise nor appease terrorism and its state patrons for any reason whatsoever. Neither terrorists nor their state sponsors will ever be our allies but ever enemies we oppose. At the Asean summit in Lao PDR in 2016, Duterte said he would seek better regional support, and expressed a firm resolve to combat terrorism. He urged Asean and other leaders to “redouble cooperative efforts” to address this menace.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Asean Joint Statement on “The Rise of Violence and Brutality Committed by Terrorist/Extremist Organizations in Iraq and Syria.” The Statement expresses Asean’s support to UNSCR 2170 and 2178, which calls upon the international community to suppress the flow of FTF and terrorist financing. It reiterates Asean’s commitment to the implementation of the “Asean Convention on Counter-Terrorism” and the “Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter-Terrorism.” Money is the lifeblood of terrorism, even as the drug trade is terrorism’s greatest source of funding in our experience and as UN data shows. We wage a two-pronged war against both menaces.

Collaboration with the United Nations

The Philippine government welcomes the assistance of the United Nations in capacity-building efforts to raise awareness. You highlighted, Mr. Chairman, the need to ensure that what needs to be done must be done properly by raising awareness of the sanctions. We also appreciate your offer for available technical assistance needed by the Philippine government. We thank you for your assurances that the international community stands with the Filipino people in the fight against terrorism.

The Philippines welcomes, specifically, your offer of assistance with regard to the listing of terrorist entities under the auspices of the UNSC Committee.  The Philippines also welcomes any initiative by the United Nations with respect to information sharing. Internationally, we pursue information initiatives in the Asean-Australia Summit, the Asean intelligence exchange in Thailand, and in our cooperation with UNODC.


In conclusion, I would like to express appreciation for the observations and recommendation that you have put forward. I agree that we must remain vigilant, as we continue to intensify our fight against terrorism. We shall continue to work with you, and I am confident that the impact of your visit to my country will be felt in the years to come.

I thank you, Mr. Chairman.


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