AFP urges unity in protecting vulnerable sectors from extremism

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay on October 23, 2020, called for unity in protecting vulnerable sectors of the community from possible radicalization.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay. (PNA file photo)

Gapay said these vulnerable sectors include schools, orphanages, and evacuation centers.

The AFP chief issued the statement to “contextualize” his earlier remark that the military is looking into sectors of communities that, owing to their vulnerabilities and prevailing circumstances, could be targeted by violent extremists and thus in danger of being radicalized.

”But while I am sincere with my desire to warn against radicalism and defeat violent extremism, I am mindful as I am concerned that I might have offended the feelings of some of our Muslim leaders, brothers, and sisters. That was never intended,” Gapay said in a statement.

Gapay also clarified that he never said Madrasah (Islamic schools) are spreading radicalization or sowing terrorism among its students as he believes that Islam is a religion that espouses peace.

“What I meant to say was there are unscrupulous individuals wanting to infiltrate schools to do just that – spread hate and plant the seeds of terrorism. And this is what we in the AFP want to vigorously prevent,” Gapay said.

Also, he added that combating violent extremism is a must when terrorism has gripped communities.

Gapay, however, said prevention is a better measure than countering it and this is why he is calling for cooperation, collaboration, and unity among the military, school administrators, and agencies of government like the Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and National Housing Authority to address the issues that may possibly be exploited by the terrorist recruiters.

“As a gesture of our sincerity, and to further clarify the statement I have previously made, I desire to reach out to our Muslim leaders. I am initiating a dialogue through the help of well-meaning individuals. I am confident that by listening to each other, we can thresh-out and resolve issues,” he added. (Priam Nepomuceno, PNA)

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