MANILA — Department of Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Friday said the military establishment has no confirmation of reports that there are Filipino Muslims recruited and being recruited by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
At the Senate budget hearing on the proposed 2015 P141.85 billion budget for the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Gazmin told Senate Finance sub-committee C that his department has not received any clear cut information on recruitment activities of ISIS.
‘’What is happening is that some groups are using it [ISIS] as a propaganda to recruit membership in their respective terrorist group, particularly the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG),’’ Gazmin told members of the committee chaired by Sen. Loren Legarda.
The ASG and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) earlier claimed they are supporting the ISIS.
Asked by Legarda if ISIS recruitment is not for real, Gazmin explained that although the DND ‘’has no correct information yet, we take this threat very seriously.’’
General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) told Senate reporters after the budget hearing that the AFP would be sending a brigade of soldiers to Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, Muslim-dominated provinces that have long coastlines.
He said intelligence men are scattered in Muslim dominated provinces to get information on the alleged recruitment.
Meanwhile, Gazmin said the defense department welcomes and supports the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying that they want to put an end to the more than four-decade war between the AFP and Muslims in the southern part of the Philippines.
He pointed out that the passage of the BBL means that the AFP could now concentrate its efforts ‘’on matters other than internal security.’’
Gazmin also warned that the non-passage by Congress of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would trigger a ‘’much bigger conflict other than what we have experienced already because of the perception that they were deceived by government.’’
However, Legarda reminded Gazmin that passing the BBL is not a walk in the park because there is a need to amend the 1987 Constitution to fit the BBL.
Gazmin stressed that the BBL seeks to uplift the lives ‘’of our Muslim brothers in the area and to dissuade extremism and bring in development if there is peace.’’
The defense chief said the military establishment is appreciative of support of President Aquino and Congress given to its multi-billion-peso modernization program.
The minimum defense posture of the AFP will cost P85 billion but only P9.7 billion has so far been provided to the AFP. In the proposed 2015 budget, the AFP will get P20 billion in the regular fund and P10 billion in the ‘’unprogrammed’’ fund.
The proposed P141.85 billion budget for the defense department is P20.48 billion or 17 percent more than the current budget of P121.36 billion.