Peace efforts vital tool in curbing terrorism, crime

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Peace negotiations are an important tool in curbing organized crime and terrorism, according to the government peace panel chairman for talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer sees an unprecedented opportunity to quell terrorism and crime with the success of a political process with a major player like the MILF.

“Without this flank, the job would be much more difficult and deadly,” she said.

Speaking at a United Nations-organized forum in Bangkok, Thailand yesterday, Ferrer said family, cultural and ideological affinity make borders porous, but that distinctions among groups should be made nonetheless.

“Efforts to draw in the rank-and-file toward the peace process must continue, with the peace partner also as the most effective ally to serve as buffer if not counterforce to the seamless operations of criminal and terrorist groups,” she said.

Ferrer said the MILF has taken decisive steps to cut off their ties with international terrorist groups like al- Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, and criminal groups in the Philippines like the Al Kobar and Pentagon gangs.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) integrees in the Armed Forces have actively participated in military campaigns against groups like the Abu Sayyaf, she added.

Two MNLF integrees in the Armed Forces were among 19 soldiers killed in Basilan last April 9 during a clash with the Abu Sayyaf, Ferrer said.

Accompanying Ferrer in Bangkok was Lt. Col. Abdurasad Sirajan, the government panel’s action officer for Western Mindanao, a former MNLF combatant, who was integrated in the Armed Forces.

Retired Major Carlos Sol Jr., the head of the government peace panel’s ceasefire secretariat based in Cotabato City, also accompanied Ferrer in representing the Philippine government in the meeting.

Ferrer said the nexus of crime and terrorism plus insurgency is inevitable.

“(They share the) same space, kinship ties, cultural affinity and historical and ideological links,” she said.

“[But] the peace process has progressed. It serves as a counter-pole to violent movements. Also, functional mechanisms are in place, namely the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities and the GPH-MILF Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) that enable valuable security cooperation.

“Alternately, when the peace process broke down or floundered, conditions for the rise of other armed groups were enhanced, adding to the complexity,” she added.

Ferrer sees the need to infuse the dominant counter-terrorism and anti-crime framework with the peace orientation.

“Such a cohesive approach is even more essential in complex or mixed situations where crime, terrorism, insurgency and revolution interplay within the same spatial dimensions – terrestrial and intellectual,” she said.

Established in 1965, UNICRI is mandated to support countries across the globe in preventing crime and facilitating criminal justice. Programs under the institute include creating and testing new and holistic approaches in preventing crime and promoting justice and development.

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