MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is looking into the possible involvement of some Madrasah, or Islamic schools in the country in the radicalization and alleged recruitment of suicide bombers, its chief said Tuesday.
"You know, the Madrasas and other schools in Sulu, we are monitoring them really, where we suspected there is some sort of radicalization activities going on," AFP Chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said in an online briefing organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP.
"We are looking now, coordinating with DepEd, looking into different schools, particularly in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao because it is one of the institutions or areas where recruitment is occurring, particularly in the youth (sector)," the military chief added.
Gapay said the military has taken steps to enhance its program to prevent and counter violent extremism, saying the involvement of Filipinos in suicide bombing incidents was an "eye opener."
As well, the military is coordinating with other government agencies to prevent the recruitment of the youth, he said.
Gapay said social media is one platform also being used by terrorists to recruit members, based on accounts by those who have surrendered to authorities.
"We have found out some of those who surrendered and captured, quite a number of them, have been recruited and radicalized through the social media," said Gapay.
According to him, a whole-of-nation approach has to be adopted in order to counter terrorism in the country.
"The military side will come in after. It's on the reactive already when terrorists are identified and due for neutralization. But the larger part of effort would be for the preventive side of it, preventing the youth and some people to get recruited, preventing foreign terrorists slipping into our country, preventing other local terrorists slipping out of the country and getting deployed in Syria or Afghanistan," said Gapay.
The military has recorded five suicide bombing incidents in the country in a span of two years, taking place in Sulu and Basilan provinces. The most recent was on Aug. 24 in Jolo, Sulu which left 17 people dead, including two suicide bombers, and injured 74 others.
Last week, a 17-year-old female Indonesian suicide bomber was arrested in Zamboanga City. Officials said the suspect, who is five months pregnant, was planning to carry out a suicide attack in Zamboanga City after giving birth.
Aside from communist terrorists, the government's security forces are also fighting the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and the Maute Group.