Sen. Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate investigation into the Duterte administration’s own admission that it failed to end the scourge of the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and other lawless groups in Mindanao.
De Lima filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 311 calling on the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security to look into the capacity of government forces to combat and neutralize the ASG and other lawless elements.
“These lawless groups are not only sowing domestic terror, but may also prove to be a weak spot making us vulnerable to external threats,” she said. “Congress should investigate what legislative measures may be passed in order to address the factors that may have contributed as to why government forces have not yet succeeded in neutralizing the ASG, towards the ultimate end of enacting measures that will strengthen and boost capacities of Government forces in eradicating or neutralizing the ASG and other lawless groups,” she added.
President Duterte has admitted that his administration has failed to run after the dreaded ASG despite the heightened military operations against the terror group whose latest victim included German Juergen Gustav Katner who was beheaded last Feb. 27.
According to the Department of National Defense, the ASG is still holding 31 foreign and local hostages, which include, among others, 12 Vietnamese, seven Indonesians, five Malaysians, a Dutchman and six Filipinos as hostages.
When she was Justice Secretary, De Lima filed an application for the proscription of the ASG as a terrorist organization as defined in Section 17 of Republic Act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007. The application was granted by the Regional Trial Court of Basilan in September 2015.
De Lima lauded the court’s action which she said “only formalizes the longstanding position of the government that the group is nothing more than a terrorist organization, thereby boosting the government’s effort to put an end to its existence and to capture all its members.”
She added the declaration would also allow the government to file criminal charges not just against ASG members, but also against their supporters and financiers under the Human Security Act and the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act.
The Senator from Bicol noted that the government should look not only on beefing up the capacities of its armed forces but also, most importantly, on employing a more synchronized and holistic approach to combat the ASG and similar criminal groups.
“Congress should also ensure that measures are in place to maintain government functions in Mindanao despite challenging situations,” she said.
In her proposed resolution, De Lima noted how the ASG has continued to carry out its nefarious activities over the years, even despite the declaration of its proscription since September 2015, victimizing local residents and foreign nationals alike.
While commending the efforts of the government forces against the terror group, De Lima also pointed out that there is still an obvious and pressing need for the government to look into why the ASG continues to carry out their criminal activities with apparent support of local communities.