MANILA–Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Tuesday sought for a Senate inquiry into the government’s capacity to scourge kidnap-for-ransom activities of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) following the beheading of German tourist.
Under Senate Resolution No. 311, De Lima called 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.
De Lima noted how the ASG has continued to carry out despicable activities over the years and victimize local residents and foreign nationals alike.
The neophyte senator commended the efforts of the government forces against the terror group, but stressed that there was 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.”
She urged the government to reinforce capacities of its armed forces and employ a more synchronized and holistic approach to combat the ASG and similar criminal groups.
Moreover, she said that lawmakers should also ensure that measures were in place to maintain government functions in Mindanao despite what she described as “challenging situations.”
“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,” De Lima said.
“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 added.
Last Feb. 27, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) confirmed the beheading of German national Juergen Gustav Kantner in Sulu after the deadline for ransom payment elapsed.
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.
De Lima is currently detained in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for drug trafficking charges. However, she continues to file bills in the Senate.