MANILA— Basilan Lone District Rep. Mujiv Hataman on Friday criticized what he said were “dangerous and unfair” remarks of the country’s military chief linking Islamic schools to the alleged radicalization of youth in Mindanao.
The lawmaker urged Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gilbert Gapay to be “more circumspect” in his statements that may put madrasas in a bad light.
“The armed forces should not be making general statements linking madrasas to terrorists without presenting irrefutable proof of its existence,” he said in a statement. “It is dangerous and unfair, and it serves no real purpose but to unjustly put our schools in a very compromising situation.”
A product of a madrasa himself, Hataman said these institutions only advocate for “peace and learning and are not breeding grounds for violent extremists and terrorist.”
“Hindi ako kailanman nakarinig ng kahit na anong turo ng tungkol sa terorismo. Sa katunayan, tinuturuan kami dito na huwag gumawa ng masama at manakit ng kapwa,” he said.
(I never heard any teachings about terrorism. In fact, we are taught on not to inflict harm on anyone.)
Comments made by Gapay, who earlier drew criticism for proposing to regulate social media use, can also further stoke discrimination against the Muslim community, he said.
“Bilang isang magulang, natatakot ako sa statement na ito ng AFP. Pano kung ang anak ko ay nag-aaral sa isang madrasa? Ano ang mararamdaman ng mga estudyante na sila pala ay iniimbestigahan na?” said Hataman, a former governor of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
(As a parent myself, I’m concerned of the AFP’s statement. What if my child goes to a madrasa? How will the students feel if they are being investigated?)
If government forces have proof of their claims, he urged them to file complaints against people involved in such activities.
In order to stamp out terrorism in the country, Hataman said the government should implement proactive measures involving different stakeholders instead of making “rash” statements.
On Tuesday, Gapay told members of the foreign press that they suspected madrasas in Sulu and other parts of Mindanao were involved in radicalization activities, which could explain the growing number of suicide bombers in the country.
The military has recorded 5 suicide bombing incidents in the country in a span of 2 years, taking place in the Sulu and Basilan provinces in the restive south. The most recent was on Aug. 24 in Jolo, Sulu which left 17 people dead, including two suicide bombers, and injured 74 others.