Military clueless on OFWs funding Abu Sayyaf

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 19 2010 12:07 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2010 08:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The military admitted on Thursday that it does not have the capability to confirm a US State Department report claiming that terrorist group Abu Sayyaf is getting funds from some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The military has no specific information regarding the issue, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brigadier General Jose Mabanta.

He explained that it is difficult to monitor the arrival of funds from overseas, citing bank rules.

"It’s so porous. Imagine, all you have to do is to deposit it abroad, deposit it into an account of whoever," Mabanta said.

"There is a possibility that a miniscule amount may end up being used or ending up in the wrong hands. But here are only miniscule and it can end up with anyone…It's not remote that it may happen," he said during an interview at Camp Aguinaldo.

Earlier reports quoted the US Department of State as saying that the Abu Sayyaf is getting funds from its kidnap-for-ransom and extortion activities, and from external sources like OFW remittances and Middle East-based extremists.

"Remember that some of our Filipino brothers living in sensitive areas may have OFW family members, and as remittances come in, it is really up to the family back (home) on how they want to use it," said Mabanta.

"OFW remittances run to billions of dollars. The biggest majority, the huge majority of this, is being used to propel the economy. Some parts of the remittances are not coursed through official means," he said.

He added that the strength of the Abu Sayyaf has greatly diminished owing to the ongoing military operations against them.

Latest military data indicated that there are around 300 Abu Sayyaf members, who are mostly based in Western Mindanao.

"They are down to 300 and they only operate in packets. To a large extent, we have degraded the capability of the Abu Sayyaf. We have diminished the effectiveness of their operations," Mabanta said.