PH a haven for terrorists? AFP, PNP point to 'so much democratic space'
MANILA, Philippines – No less than the chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted that the country has become a "breeding ground for terrorists."
Speaking to reporters prior to a joint conference, AFP chief General Eduardo Año and PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said it's because the country enjoys too much "democratic space."
"As you know, the country enjoys so much democratic space that is being exploited by terror groups and also criminal groups," Año said.
This is a sentiment shared by Dela Rosa, who said that the country has "so much democratic space that sometimes it's bordering indiscipline."
Explaining their stand, the top security officials pointed to inadequate security legislation in the country of 100 million people. (READ: ISIS planning more attacks in PH and region – terror expert)
Año said the Human Security Act lacks certain provisions, which is why the military is pushing for the Internal Security Act. The AFP chief did not elaborate on these provisions.
Dela Rosa, for his part, raised the proposed national identification (ID) card system, which to him would be "very crucial" in tracking all Filipinos.
The bill setting a national ID system is considered a priority measure by both Congress and the executive branch, but the PNP chief lamented that they are facing an "uphill battle." (READ: Ledac agrees to pass federalism, national ID bills by December)
The "breeding ground for terrorists" tag came from Russell Salic, a doctor from Marawi City who was allegedly part of a thwarted plot targeting New York's subway and Times Square.
In an electronic exchange acquired by US security agents, Salic described terror laws in the Philippines as "not strict" in comparison to other countries.
He also said the Philippines "does not care about IS (the Islamic State)" like the West, a claim which both Año and Dela Rosa denied. (READ: Terror in Mindanao: The Mautes of Marawi)
Salic is still under the custody of Philippine authorities, facing interrogation, according to the security chiefs. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II earlier said they will process the US' request for Salic's extradition. – Rappler.com