China Refuses to Quit on the Philippines

by Derek Grossman*

25 July 2020

When the Filipino people elected Rodrigo Duterte to become their next president in May 2016, China saw a distinct opportunity to pull the longtime U.S. ally away from Washington and into Beijing’s strategic orbit. Avowedly anti-American, President Duterte on his first trip to Beijing in October 2016 exclaimed that it was “time to say goodbye to Washington” — much to the delight of his host, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and other Chinese leaders.

In subsequent years, China pledged to invest in the Philippines through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and to cooperate on achieving “joint exploration” of disputed waters in the South China Sea. However, Filipino mismanagement of the BRI and the inability of the two sides to see past their sovereignty disputes to conduct joint exploration left question marks hanging over the direction of bilateral ties. 

Read more.

*Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California, and a regular contributor to The Diplomat. He formerly served as the daily intelligence briefer to the assistant secretary of defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs at the Pentagon.

This piece originally appeared at The Diplomat on 22 July 2020. Also appeared at the RAND on the same day.

Photo Credit: Mark Cristino/Reuters as used by RAND.

Hurdling the Adverse State-Civil Society Relation Against Terrorism in Southeast Asia

by Rizal G. Buendia*

22 July 2020


In the United Nations (UN) Security Council’s meeting in April 2020, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres acknowledged that in spite of the current COVID-19 pandemic, “the threat of terrorism remains alive.” Terrorist groups see a “window of opportunity” to violently attack governments while their attention is turned towards addressing the pandemic. Likewise, in the opening of the 2020 virtual Counter Terrorism Week in July 2020, Guterres states that the pandemic has highlighted the use of “new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyberattacks and bioterrorism,” hence calls for vigilance.

Evidence from the ground had shown that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is real and serious. The European Union’s (EU) Counter-terrorism Coordinator, Giles de Kerchove, says in a confidential briefing to EU member states that terrorists and Islamic militants seek to exploit the crises to “change societies and governmental systems through violence.” Meanwhile, Norway’s top military official in Iraq confirms that attacks by Islamic State in the Middle East are on the rise as the region grapples with the pandemic.

The situation in Southeast Asia is not much different. Between February and March 2020, the International Police (INTERPOL) led an operation of law enforcers coming from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (BIMP)  that resulted in the arrest of 180 individuals suspected to be members of terrorist groups including the Abu Sayyaf Group. Captured with the suspects were high-powered firearms, illegally assembled explosives, and illicit goods. The operation also rescued 130 human trafficking victims. The operation confirmed that COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped terrorist and organized crime groups from carrying out their activities.

Terrorism continue to be a global challenge in spite of the global health crisis. It is real and serious. Islamic militants and far right-wing extremists have been emboldened to pursue their activities as governments have concentrated their efforts in addressing the pandemic in their own national domain.

Given this predicament, UN Secretary-General Guterres suggested in his address on the Counter-Terrorism Week that one of the key counter-measures in resolving terrorism is the vital participation of “civil society representatives,  the private sector, women and young people” not only in preventing terrorism but also in “building (an) inclusive and resilient societies.”

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and terrorism

Generally, civil society is associated primarily with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or groups, and charities. It is oftentimes referred to as the civic or “third,” community, and non-profit sector, in contradistinction to public (government) and private sectors. It consists usually of a range of voluntary associations including political parties, trade unions and professional bodies, private foundations, educational and research institutions and think tanks, religious, faith‐based, and community‐based organizations, and women’s, human rights, social and environmental groups working on a definite and defined interest and aspiration of a particular sector of society but operating outside of governmental and private (commercial and for-profit) sectors or spheres.

As early as 2006, the UN has already recognized the role of CSOs in mitigating terrorism through the General Assembly’s adoption of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy (Resolution 60/288) (UNGA 2006a). The Strategy affirms the determination of UN member states to “further encourage non-governmental organizations and civil society to engage, as appropriate, on how to enhance efforts to implement the Strategy” (UNGA 2006 par 3[e]). The vital role of non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs) in the global strategy against terrorism has likewise been highlighted by then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in his April 2006 report entitled “Uniting against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy”. (UNGA 2006b A60/825).

In Southeast Asia, its regional organization, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), had recognized the role of CSOs in abating terrorism only in 2017 on the occasion of the 31st ASEAN Summit. It endorsed the Manila Declaration to Counter the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism . The Declaration was further adopted at the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (hereinafter referred to as the AMMTC) as ASEAN Comprehensive Plan of Action on Counter Terrorism . The Plan of Action (POA) was elaborated at the 12th AMMTC  in 2018 and updated at the 13th AMMTC  in 2019 to cover up to 2025.

The late recognition of the CSOs in addressing terrorism lies on the peculiar characteristics of CSOs in the region as well as the lukewarm appreciation of the state on CSOs’ potential, capability, and key role in resolving terrorism.

Peculiarities of civil society in Southeast Asia (SEA)

Southeast Asia’s diversity in terms of state system, type of regime, societal structure, stage of economic development, cultural framework, and breadth and depth of peoples’ activism, makes the region an excellent case in which to interrogate the scope and limits as well as ascertain the quality of civil society. Understanding civil society in Southeast Asia would give us a better appreciation how it would be able to contribute in mitigating if not eradicating the roots of terrorism in the region.

Unlike in Europe or in North America where civil society is highly distinguishable from the state, civil society in Southeast Asia is less distinct. Schak and Hudson (2003) argue that the dividing line between the spheres of civil society on one hand and public and private sectors on the other hand in Asia is blurred; the state plays a central, if not domineering role, in the formation and establishment of CSOs. They are not just autonomous non-state voluntary organizations but intricately intertwined with the power and function of the state. The independence of CSOs from the state is therefore dubious.

Johan Saravanamuttu (1997), using his survey of civil societies across the region, declares that CSOs are weak compared to the power of the state because they “have had their incipient features shaped primarily by the economic milieu engendered by a dominant state structure,” rather than having grown organically out of politics (p. 2). Ben Kerkvliet (2003) says that while there are several budding and emerging CSOs in Vietnam, they continue to be highly constrained by the state. In spite of their peaceful advocacies for reforms in government institutions, laws, and communication and media, they are not allowed to criticize Communist Party leaders or officials, the military, and national policies, and thus cannot be unreservedly “political” lest they lose what space they have (pp. 15-16).

David Brown and David Martin Jones (1995) avow that the dominant party regime in Singapore has effectively restrained the political participation and free exchange of ideas among the middle class. This renders the process of democratization in illiberal democratic Singapore “the expansion of political participation and consultation within the limits defined by the state” rather than the project of an adversarial civil society. (p. 84; also in Jones and Brown 1994). In a later study of Jones (1998), he finds out that a “modular civil society” – one premised on the differentiation of political and socioeconomic spheres – is not emerging in the region but a “political change reflects a conservative, managerial strategy to amplify political control by forging a new relationship with an arriviste middle class (p. 163).

The proliferation of NGOs since the 1980s until late 1990s in Malaysia allowed them to perform a central role in both electoral and informal politics. The active participation of NGOs in politics outside the state pressured the latter to open a wider democratic space notwithstanding the presence of institutional constraints that inhibit the promotion of human rights and advancement of the rule of law – less independent judiciary, controlled media, and employment of the Internal Security Act (ISA), among others.

Francis Loh (2003) argues that Malaysians disillusioned with political parties and electoral politics precipitated CSOs to engage in informal politics. The political mobilization of CSOs did not only offer the venues for participation outside the channels of electoral politics, but also permit them to work with opposition political parties that eventually helped “to enrich those parties as well as hasten the process of political reform” (see also Weiss 2006). However, Saliha Hassan (2002) warns that NGOs need to beware of both exclusionary tendencies and state co-optation to enjoy the expanding space for democratic participation,

Gerard Clarke’s (1998) in-depth study of the Philippines notes that NGOs both strengthen and weaken civil society. He illustrates how state-civil society collaboration fortifies the state and expands civil society political participation. His study shows that civil society is less concerned with its autonomy from the state when they can achieve their objectives through a strategic alliance with the state.

Indonesia, according to Robert Hefner (2000), is as an Islamic state that supports “democracy, voluntarism, and a balance of countervailing powers in a state and society” (pp. 12-13). He notes the emergence of a Habermasian public sphere in Muslim Indonesia by highlighting “civil pluralist Islam.”

Overall, civil society in the region may not be so consistently a force for democratization or so staunchly independent of the state as most Western literature presumes, yet may still be an important space, among others, for political engagement and transformation. This recalibration of the concept “civil society” offers a clearer lens on the notion of civil society-state nexus in the region more generally.

Furthermore, Alagappa (2004) concludes, among others, in his volume Civil Society and Political Change in Asia that Asian civil societies bear features of both neo-Tocquevillian/liberal democratic (associational) and neo-Gramscian/New Left (cultural and ideological frames with the former gaining ascendancy as state institutions gain legitimacy.

Although there has been a proliferation of CSO, it has not resulted in the institutionalization of non-state public sphere. CSOs generally have yet to establish themselves as independent and autonomous entity from the state. While CSOs have checked the power of the state on the one hand, and influenced the political dynamics of communities on the other hand, interactions between these two spheres vary significantly in contemporary Southeast Asia.

The opportunities for civil society to engage or enter into partnership with government may be limited in countries where civil society structures are weak or non-existent and conversely, may be boundless in countries where civil society is robust and vigorous.

CSOs and state relations

Given the colonial history of Southeast Asian countries, except Thailand which served as a buffer state between the British and French empires, and difficulties encountered by leaders to building their nation-state after their respective independence owing to numerous rebel groups seeking power, relationship between state and civil society is tainted with mistrust. Many governments are deeply suspicious of civil society, and would actively resist any national or international effort to boost its power relative to the state.    

Sumpter (2018) opines that security forces engaged with counterterrorism are not accustomed to working with community stakeholders and civil society organisations. This predicament results in a poor engagement between civil society and state. Cooperation, co-ordination, and exchange of information related to terrorism between civil society and government cannot materialize in a hostile environment. It was even accounted that a number of CSOs in Indonesia having CVE programmes are not being coordinated nor harmonized with the efforts of the state, hence lead to wastage of resources.

The dilemma in establishing a working relationship between civil society and state is compounded when one operates in a less democratic and less politically open society, in an authoritarian or anocratic states. In such situation, radicalization is not atomized but open and widespread — deepening the conflict between contending forces and widening the fissures of society amid parties, ethnicities, social groups, and ideologies.

The inability of autocratic and anocratic regimes in SEA to accommodate civil society or provide CSOs reasonable democratic space to engage in socio-economic activities and political reform endeavours on the notion that they threaten the stability of the state does not rest on any material basis. Gnanasagaran (2018) says that there is a disconnect between the state and CSOs. He cites that in 2016, under Lao PDR’s chairmanship of ASEAN, Vientiane refused to host the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF).

Tadem argues that from 2005 to 2015, individual ASEAN states have consistently resisted CSO participation and engagement in ASEAN critical issues, including terrorism. Despite the rhetorical emphasis on participatory regionalism, Allison and Taylor (2016) contend that regional CSOs and non-state actors have limited capacity to influence ASEAN.

Generally, Southeast Asian political elites have restrictive attitude towards CSOs as the latter speak out against human rights abuses, demand resolution of local grievances, and clamour for social justice. However, it has been an established fact that restricting CSOs from undertaking their legitimate functions simply exacerbate the risk of future terror. Jeong-Woo and Murdie (2018) study yielded no evidence proving that legal restrictions on civil society diminish the number of terrorist attacks within the country.

Greer and Watson (2016) claim that traditional “retributive” anti-terror approaches — which include military/police action and legal imprisonment – though urgently needed, “aggrieve or isolate populations vulnerable to radicalization.” They claim that “retributive approaches do little to reduce recidivism rates or disrupt the underlying cycles of anger and grievance central to radicalization.”

            Singapore’s multi-stakeholder collaboration and grassroots approach, despite a less democratic society, is worth mentioning. Its Religious Rehabilitation Group  is a voluntary group of ulama and asatizah (Islamic scholars and teachers) in Singapore, has been deemed successful in countering extremism through “restorative” approach. Its mission is to restore and rectify the “misinterpretation” of Islamic concepts and disrupt or counter the narratives assumed central to radicalization. It works within the “hearts-and-minds strategies which aims at understanding one’s personal motivations and refocussing them to a more constructive venture.

Similarly, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiya, two of Indonesia’s largest Muslim civil societies, launched programs to counteract Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) narratives. Following the January 2015 Indonesian terror attacks, NU denounced ISIS through the social media under the hashtag #KamiTidakTakut (#WeAreNotAfraid).


It is important to understand that civil society engagement is about participation and partnership with the state.  Contracting an institutional relationship, either formal or informal, with the state is complementary, not a rival, to parliamentary democracy or representative democracy. Citizen participation carries its own legitimacy; it does not need to borrow its legitimacy from representation, not even to any institutions or instrumentalities of government. Its legitimacy emanates from what it does.

The legitimacy of CSOs and their networks are bolstered by the validity and integrity of their ideas, by the values and interests they promote, and by the issues and programmes they care about. CSOs provide the platform and channel to variegated voices of social groups and causes of marginalized sectors which the state needs to hear and act upon. Rosand (2009) moreover imparts that CSOs can promote a culture of tolerance and pluralism and play a strategic role in protecting local communities, countering extremist ideologies, and dealing with political violence.

CSOs are important to every society, regardless of regime and state system not only because they reflect peoples’ concern but also due to their potential of filling in the imperatives of socio-economic and political development. And through them society can get things done better either by offering an alternative system of delivering public goods and services or providing unorthodox strategies in achieving development goals and objectives.

CSOs are not only effective agents and facilitators of change agents but also effective institutions in mitigating politico-cultural exclusion and socio-economic marginalization of the poor.  Although CSOs are neither elected, thus not accountable to the electorate, nor have any contractual relationship with the governed and cannot claim any form of representation, their limitations constitute a comparative advantage since their sense of virtual independence, in whatever manner or form give them relative freedom, flexibility, and space imperative in national and good governance.


Alagappa, M. (2004). Civil Society and Political Change: An Analytical Framework. In: M. Alagappa, M. (Ed.), Civil Society and Political Change in Asia: Expanding and Contracting Democratic Space (pp. 25-60)California: Stanford University Press.

Brown, D. and Jones, D.M. (1995), Democratization and the Myth of the Liberalizing Middle Classes.  In: D. Bell, D. Brown, K. Jayasuriya, and D.M. Jones Towards Illiberal Democracy in Pacific Asia (pp 78-106). London: Macmillan Press Ltd.

Clarke, G. (1998). The Politics of NGOs in South-East Asia: Participation and Protest in the Philippines. New York: Routledge.

Hassan, S. (2002). Political Non-governmental Organizations: Ideals and Realities. In F. Loh and K.B. Teik (Eds), Democracy in Malaysia: Discourses and Practices. (pp.198- 215). USA: Routledge.

Hefner, R. (2000). Civil Islam: Muslims and Democratization in Indonesia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Jones, D.M. and D. Brown. (1994). Singapore and the Myth of the Liberalizing Middle Class. Pacific Review 7 (1), 79-87.

Jones, D.M. (1998). Democratization, Civil Society and Illiberal Middle-Class Culture in Pacific Asia. Comparative Politics 30 (2), 147-169.

Kerkvliet, B. (2003). Introduction: Grappling with Organizations and the State. In: Kerkvilet, B., Heng-Khng. R., and Koh, D. (Eds). Getting Organized in Vietnam: Moving in and Around the Socialist State. Singapore: ISEAS

Loh, F. (2003). NGO and Non-Electoral Politics. Aliran Monthly 22 (11), 2-9.

Rosand, Eric (2009). The Role of Civil Society in Counterterrorism. Presentation to the EU’s Counter-Terrorism Committee. 14 October.

Saravanamuttu, J. (1997) Transforming Civil Societies in ASEAN Countries (with special focus on Malaysia and Singapore). CIS Working Paper 1997-8, Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto.

Schak, D., and Hudson, W. (2003). Civil Society in Asia in D. Schak and W. Hudson (Eds). Civil Society in Asia. Hampshire, England and Burlington, USA: Ashgate.

United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) (2006a). The United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, Doc. A/RES/60/288, 8 September.

UNGA (2006b). Uniting against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy – Report of the Secretary-General, Doc. A/RES/60/825, 27April.

*The author holds a PhD in Political Science. He is an independent Political Analyst in Southeast Asian PoliticsWales, UK

This piece is also published in Eurasia Review.

Photo Credit: As used in Eurasia Review.

China-Philippines Ties See Transformation and Upgrading Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

By Huang Xilian*

21 July 2020


When #COVID-19 vaccine is developed and put into use, #China will give priority to providing it to the #Philippines as a global public good.

As the resumption of work and production proceeds in an orderly manner, there will be more #Chinese cooperative projects in the #Philippines in the future, which will provide strong impetus to the local economic recovery and improvement of people’s livelihood in the Philippines.

The year 2020 marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Philippines. The year also witnessed the profound friendship between our two countries in our common battle against the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept the world.

In the fight against the pandemic, China and the Philippines have forged closer partnership through anti-COVID-19 cooperation, setting a good example for international cooperation.

At present, both countries are making every effort to accelerate the work resumption and help the public resume their lives back to normal.

At the same time, we are continuing to synergize the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, and steadily carry out major cooperation projects in infrastructure construction to further consolidate and upgrade China-Philippines relations.

Ensure a smooth flow of essential business people and goods

As the most serious global crisis since the WWII, the pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the economic development of countries including China and the Philippines from both ends of demand and supply with people travelling restricted, global production and supply chain disrupted.

Faced with the severe challenges brought about by the pandemic, China curbed the spread of virus rapidly and took the lead in driving to the resumption of business and production. At the same time, China takes the BRI as the most important platform to strengthen dialogue and  cooperation with the Philippines and other countries along the route. China and the Philippines have been negotiating on the establishment of the “fast track” for two-way essential travel and a “green channel” for   smooth flow of goods to ensure the stability of the industrial and supply chains.

Thanks to the joint efforts of China and the Philippines, the BRI has given full play in terms of creating vitality and opportunities to bilateral economic and trade exchanges.

According to the Chinese statistics, bilateral trade reached $19.37 billion dollars in the first five months of this year, and China remains the largest trading partner of the Philippines. China’s direct investment in the Philippines reached $18.25 million, up 82.5 percent year-on-year.

Deepen health cooperation for public health and safety

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, China, the Philippines and other BRI partners have accelerated their cooperation in the field of public health, and are committed to building a “Health Silk Road” and a community of common health for mankind.

Since the outbreak, the Philippines has provided valuable support to China and China is also working through various channels to fully support the Philippines’ resistance to the virus, including the timely dispatch of experienced medical experts to Philippines and providing medical materials to the country.

Up to now, the Chinese government has provided the Philippines with a total of 252,000 testing reagents, 130 ventilators, 1.87 million medical masks, protective suits, goggles and other epidemic prevention materials.

A large number of Chinese local governments, enterprises and civil groups donated tens of millions sets of PPEs and other medical supplies to different local governments, hospitals of the Philippines.

When the COVID-19 vaccine is developed and put into use, China will give priority to providing it to the Philippines, as a global public good.

Promote connectivity for economic and social recovery

Under the guidance of the memorandum of understanding on jointly promoting the BRI, China has strengthened coordination between the BRI and the Philippines’ “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, through which we have coordinated epidemic prevention and control, resumed work and production, and promoted the construction of key cooperation projects in the Philippines in an orderly manner, helping stabilize the local economy, ensuring employment and improving people’s livelihood in the country.

Steady progress has been made in key projects of Chinese assistance, such as the two bridges over the Pasig river in Manila and the Philippine National Railways South Long-Haul Project.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ third telecommunication carrier the DITO in which Chinese telecommunications companies have participated, and has now come to the stage of full construction.

In the first five months of this year, newly signed contracts for Chinese projects in the Philippines amounted to $3.11 billion, up 29.5 percent year-on-year, and completed turnover of $970 million, up 13.2 percent year-on-year.

As the resumption of work and production proceeds in an orderly manner, there will be more Chinese financed projects in the Philippines, which will inject strong impetus to the local economic recovery and improvement of people’s livelihood.

Expand cooperation for sustainable growth

During the pandemic, new industries and business modes have emerged, creating new lifestyles such as working-from-home, telecommuting and e-commerce etc.

Companies from China and the Philippines have made active use of the “Silk Road e-commerce” platform to give full play to the advantages of cross-border e-commerce and work hard to cope with the challenges brought by the pandemic to cross-border trade and investment.

As regular epidemic prevention and control worldwide has become the new norm, China will actively explore with the Philippines to strengthen  cooperation in e-commerce, 5G, big data, AI and cloud computing. By building a “Digital Silk Road” and a “Green Silk Road”, we can not only promote the economic recovery on the basis of transformation and upgrading, but also achieve a high-quality sustainable development, benefiting our two peoples.

*The author is currently the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines. Thus far, he worked with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for 30 years. He also served as China’s Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Read more.

This article is published courtesy of the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines. Photo Credit: Chinese Embassy in the Philippines.

Strategy of a Small State with Great Powers: The Philippines Amidst US-China Rivalry in the South China Sea

by Rommel C. Banlaoi, PhD*

9 July 2020

Security tensions in the South China Sea are rising again due to escalating major power rivalry between the United States and China.  The US and China have increased their military presence in the South China by sending their warships to conduct air-sea battle exercises while the whole world continues to struggle against the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Two American aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and the USS Ronald Reagan, started its military drills in the South China Sea on 4 July 2020 during the commemoration of American Independence Day.  The US government regards those exercises as part of its commitment of “standing up for the right of all nations to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows”.

China, on the other hand, just concluded on 5 July 2020 its military exercises near the Paracel Islands “to counter the US” and to push back against Pentagon for having “ulterior motives” in sending two aircraft carriers in the South China Sea. 

These military exercises of competing major powers have heated up tensions in the South China Sea as both up the ante of its military activities in the contested maritime domain that is considered to be one of the major flashpoints of armed conflicts in Asia where the two major powers can collide.  In fact, those military exercises were so proximate making US Rear Admiral James Kirk on the Nimitz to comment, “they have seen us and we have seen them”.

Prior to these military exercises, the Philippine government, through Secretary Teodoro Locsin of the Department of Foreign Affairs, issued a strong statement on 3 July 2020 expressing concerns over China’s drills.  Locsin stressed that the Philippines would “severely” respond if China would encroach on Philippine territories. Locsin exclaimed, “Should the exercises spill over to Philippine territory, then China is forewarned that it will be met with the severest response, diplomatic and whatever else is appropriate.” 

China concluded its military drills without untoward incident. 

But the growing major power rivalry between China and the US in the South China Sea has raised a big question if the Philippines is pushing back against China and is shifting back to the US as its only military ally considering that Manila has earlier suspended the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).  How will this new situation affect the Philippines’ “comprehensive strategic cooperation” with China?  Is President Rodrigo Duterte flip-flopping again in its foreign policy amidst US-China rivalry in the South China Sea?  

Some are quick to conclude that Duterte is flip-flopping in the guise of pursuing an independent foreign policy.   

But what is not fully understood is the fact the Philippine government has been applying the grand strategies of small states in dealing with great powers within an anarchic international system.    

Small states and great powers have different survival instincts amidst international anarchy.  Realist theory of international relations contends that great powers seek their survival by balancing each other.  But small states, by virtue of their inherent vulnerability in the anarchic international system, find their survival by forging relationships with great powers balancing each other. Because of their inherent vulnerable situation, small states pursue relationships with great powers depending on the situation.  Small states respond to situations according to their own national interests and not the interests of major powers in competition.

The Philippine government is pushing back against China in the South China Sea because of the current situation that threatens Manila’s security interests.  China’s recent military activities in the South China Sea, particularly around the waters of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the Spratlys, are causing security anxieties in the Philippines.  There is a tendency for the Philippine government to cling with the US to address common security interests as the US continues to be the only security ally of the Philippines that can effectively balance China.   

When the situation is calm in the South China Sea and Manila’s security interests are not compromised, the Philippines has a tendency to shift its gear towards China being a close giant neighbor for centuries.  The Philippine government continues to have an interest to pursue a comprehensive strategic cooperation with China for economic purposes.   

The Philippine government has economic needs that China can provide.  But the Philippine government also has security needs that the US can provide.  If China can allay Manila’s current fear of the situation in the KIG and can provide Manila’s current security needs in the South China Sea, the Philippines will find no reason to reach out its only security ally, the US, as this alliance always reminds the Philippines of its colonial experiences.  But the Philippines government is compelled to pivot back to the US because the current situation dictates so.

In 1991, the Philippine government terminated the US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement because of the post-cold war situation.  When China established full control of the Mischief Reef in 1995, the Philippines invited the US back by signing the VFA that came into force in 1999.  The VFA became very useful in the aftermath of September 11, 2001  (9/11) terrorist attacks as both countries cooperated in the global war on terrorism.  

Meanwhile, the South China Sea enjoyed a calm moment in 2002 when China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. But when the Philippine government withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2004, the US became lukewarm to the Philippines encouraging Manila to pursue “comprehensive engagement” with China.  In 2005, the Philippines and China enjoyed the “golden years” of their bilateral ties with the dismay of the US.

In 2009, the situation went wrong in the South China Sea.  China became more assertive legally and military that renewed security tensions in the area.  Legally, China submitted to the United Nations on 7 May 2009 a map of its nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea.  Militarily, China fortified its military structures in its occupied areas in the Spratlys and Paracels.   This situation encouraged the Philippines to deal with the US again.

When China occupied the Scarborough Shoal in 2012, the Philippines filed an arbitration case against China in 2013.  The arbitration case led the deterioration of Philippines-China relations reaching its lowest moment in its recent bilateral history.  The arbitration case, however, motivated China to pursue land reclamation activities, which led to the building of artificial islands in seven geographic features in the Spratlys.  Under this situation, the Philippines signed the Enhance Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US in 2014. 

The situation changed in 2016.  The International Arbitral Tribunal made its landmark decisions in favor of the Philippines.  The Philippines under Duterte who had personal animosity against the US, decided to pursue a paradigm shift to China. 

The Philippines and China have started to enjoy a new era of closer friendship under Duterte who described his relationship with China like the blooming of a big and beautiful flower.    Duterte’s policy of paradigm shift to China ushered in the new age of cooperation between the two countries. Duterte even threatened to separate with the US.  

When President XI Jingping visited the Philippines in 2018, the two countries declared their comprehensive strategic cooperation to have an all around relationship, which is a rapid turn-around in their bilateral ties. They celebrated another golden age of their bilateral ties during this visit. The Philippines and China signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to facilitate their joint cooperation on the development of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, particularly in areas being claimed by the Philippines called West Philippine Sea (WPS). 

Situations were going very well in the Philippines-China relations.  Under President Xi Jing Ping and President Duterte, the Philippines and China enjoyed the highest moment of their bilateral relations. Both countries even established the Bilateral Consultative Mechanism in the South China Sea to promote peace, friendship and cooperation.

But the COVID-19 pandemic altered the security situation in the South China Sea as a result of China’s continuing assertion of sovereignty.  The Philippines and its neighbors have also expressed their security anxieties on the current situation.  Again, the Philippines government needs to to pivot to the US.

In other words, situation in the South China Sea greatly affects Philippine foreign policy towards China and the United States.  When the security situation is tense, the Philippine government embraces the US.  When the security situation is calm, the Philippine government engages China. 

The Philippine government is just applying the grand strategy of small states when dealing with major powers.

*Rommel C. Banlaoi, PhD, is a Professorial Lecturer at the Department of International Studies, Miriam College.  He is also the President of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS), President of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies (PSISS), and the Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR).

This piece was delivered during the online forum, “Geopolitical Rivalry in South Asia and Southeast Asia” organized by Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement and University of Malaya Institute of Chinese Studies on 9 July 2020. Watch webinar here: or here.

This piece is also published in Eurasia Review and ICAS Bulletin.

Photo Credit: From the author during his latest visit to Pag-Asa island.

Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020: The Urgent Need for Gender-Sensitive Counterterrorism Measures in the Philippines

by Mary Ysabelle Samantha A. Chikiamco*

8 July 2020

Law enforcement authorities stereotypically portray terrorist fighters as weapons-carrying men who are always on the frontlines. They regard women, on the other hand, as passive members, blind supporters, or unfortunate victims of terrorist organizations who are always on the sidelines.

This mindset is sadly reinforcing gender-biased counterterrorism policies that utterly neglect women’s experiences, roles, and difficulties in acts of terrorism and other factors behind their engagement or participation in terrorist activities.

Current government policies also perpetuate gender insensitive ideas that always picture men as main targets of terrorist groups and that men are the main actors of violent extremism. This lack of gender sensitivity perpetuates prejudiced government approaches, efforts, and strategies in preventing and countering terrorism.

With terrorist threats and attacks intensifying within the Philippine territory, specifically in Mindanao, it is necessary to enhance our counterterrorism measures that addresses all challenges that terrorism poses to both women and men.

Focusing on the gendered effects of terrorism means recognizing and understanding that individuals are not equally capable of recovering from violent attacks and are not equally at risk. Both men and women have served in several positions in terrorist groups. Because women are less likely to stir up suspicion, our policies have not been built to recognize or acknowledge their involvement or motivations in terrorist activities.

Sadly, the counterterrorism laws and policies that the Philippine government has enacted over the past years have not been sensitive to the needs, experiences, roles, and rights of women.

For instance, the Human Security Act of 2007 describes women as being under the most vulnerable groups needing the utmost protection.  The Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020, which repeals the Human Security Act of 2007, reiterates and even reproduces this traditional and stereotypical portrayal of women in Philippine counterterrorism measures. It is also disappointing to note that in the new anti-terrorism law, the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women is not included in the identified support agencies of the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC), the main office in charge of implementing government policies in counterterrorism.

Apparently, existing counterterrorism measures have failed to deeply recognize the complex gender dynamics of terrorism, which regards women as capable players to be directly engaged in terrorist activities. The Jolo Cathedral suicide bombing on 27 January 2019 and the Indanan suicide bombing on 8 September 2019 were just examples of many cases proving women’s capabilities to also engage in various acts of terrorism identified in the new Philippine Anti-Terrorism Law.

When Philippine policies and legislations recognize the diversities of women’s roles in terrorism, it will open innovative doors to pursue gender-sensitive measures in counterterrorism. Pursuing counterterrorism laws and measures with gender perspectives can become an important starting point in addressing the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism.

However, we should also go beyond the analysis of texts in the current policies and measures because decision-making, leadership, empowerment, and participation of women are also significant key components.

There is evidently still a huge gap between the decision-making powers of men compared to that of women, thereby generating decisions and policies based predominantly on men’s perspective. This gap is seen in how differently men perceive the challenges and experiences of women and how the direction and framework we are building are the complete opposite of how women experience and see things.

Hence, promoting the active participation of women in decision-making regarding security measures and counterterrorism efforts would allow for essential feedbacks to generate deeper and more compendious gender analysis regarding our current laws and policies on counterterrorism.

It is critical that women engage in the development of counterterrorism frameworks to guarantee that their views and perspectives are taken into account and their contributions and efforts are given utmost attention if not priority.

Women’s reasons, experiences, challenges, and needs concerning terrorism and extremism are equally significant to that of men. Threats of terrorism and challenges of violent extremism would be better understood and addressed by looking at the standpoint of both genders.

More importantly, recognizing that women’s roles are multifaceted can allow advances in women’s positions and participation that can increase the probability of success and effectiveness in counterterrorism.

Over the past years, the Philippines has convicted terrorists, prevented terrorist attacks, responded through military interventions, and introduced protective measures to mitigate and counter violent extremism and terrorism. However, the slow and limited results of success and effectiveness in the country’s counterterrorism measures may be due to the gender imbalances and gaps within the context of counterterrorism policy frameworks and strategies.

Therefore, including women in the conversation and decision-making process would empower them and give them an equal opportunity to contribute to creating a clearer lens for ensuring that gender issues in preventing and countering terrorism are systematically identified.

But, for this implementation to become possible and more effective, the Philippines’ counterterrorism efforts should also go beyond military strategies and move towards gender-sensitive security measures that focus on human welfares, rights, aspirations, and roles of both perpetrators and victims of terrorism.

To broadly understand how diverse sexual orientation or gender identity can operate within the sphere of counterterrorism in the Philippines, policy-makers, political and security analysts, and leaders need to open its doors to changes in its policies and efforts in order to build comprehensive frameworks that incorporate gender perspectives and narratives. Counterterrorism laws, policies, and measures must become more sensitive to the capacities, needs, and roles of both men and women in order to remove all gender-stereotypes and the over-representation of just one gender.

The empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality are corrective measures to perennial threats of violent extremism and terrorism. Thus, aside from reviewing or revising the provisions of Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 in order to make it more gender-sensitive including the eventual implementation of its planned rules and regulations guided by the rule of law, the Department of Justice and the ATC should also bear in mind that gender truly matters in counterterrorism.

* The author is a senior student taking up BA International Studies at Miriam College, the Philippines.  She wrote this piece as part of her internship requirements at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR).

This is piece is also published in Eurasia Review and FBI Reform.

Photo Credit: Cici Rezky Fantasy Rullie, said to be around 18, is believed to be the daughter of the Indonesian couple who bombed Jolo Cathedral in January 2019. Cici is seen here engaging in a shootout with the military. Image courtesy of Rappler-sourced video screengrab. Philippines, 2019. Source: Women of the Eastern Caliphate Part 1: Hiding in Plain Sight by Anna Santos and Nikki Dizon. Read more.

On the New Philippine Anti-Terrorism Law and “the Quest for the Holy Grail”: Towards A Legal Definition of Terrorism

by Soliman M. Santos, Jr*

6 July 2020

President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed Republic Act 11479 entitled, “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” on 3 July 2020. One controversial aspect of this law is the perennial debate on the definition of terrorism. This paper examines the definitional ramification of terrorism from a legal standpoint. Editor

The September 11, 2001 or 9/11  has brought to the fore the issue of international terrorism and with it the question of its very definition. 

Malaysian journalist Bunn Nagara of The Star, writing on the Special Session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on 1-3 April 2002 in Kuala Lumpur which failed to reach a consensus on the definition of terrorism, said:  “For the international community to do anything resolutely against terrorism, policymakers have to move on.  And the best step forward is to begin by defining terrorism.  This is a logical first step, much as a physician has to diagnose a patient before prescribing the appropriate treatment.”

Similarly, the International Progress Organization (IPO), in The Baku Declaration on Global Dialogue and Peaceful Co-Existence Among Nations and the Threats Posed by International Terrorism of 9 November 2001, said:  “The United Nations Organization should urgently convene an international conference with the aim of establishing a precise and legally sound definition of terrorism.  Unless this effort at codification is undertaken, the term ‘terrorism’ will continue to serve only as a tool to justify brute power politics and obfuscate the superpower policy of double standards.”

A Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism, including a definition of terrorism, has so far been elusive in the UN, as shown most recently in the November 2001 sessions of the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal Affairs) and Ad Hoc Committee tasked to elaborate an international convention for the suppression of terrorist bombings.  This has been attributed, among others, to “diverging political interests and contradicting normative perceptions” especially between Islamic states and Western states.  This notwithstanding the fact that the UN has 12 existing multilateral conventions on terrorism.

But none of these 12 conventions has a generally accepted single inclusive definition of terrorism.  International Law Commission (ILC) member Raul I. Goco of the Philippines points out that each of these conventions, which relates to various aspects of the problem, describes only the particular or specific acts or subject-matter covered by it.   These are aircraft hijacking and sabotage, crimes against internationally protected persons including diplomatic agents, hostage-taking, physical protection of nuclear material, airport violence, acts against maritime navigation safety, acts against the safety of fixed platforms on the continental shelf, terrorist bombings, and terrorist financing – so far.

American professors Anthony Clark Arend and Robert J. Beck, in their book International Law and the Use of Force:  Beyond the UN Charter Paradigm (1993), note that a 1983 study by Dutch political scientist Alex Schmid found that 109 definitions of terrorism have been advanced between 1936 and 1981.  More have appeared since then, including at least six from the U.S. government.  Thus, one Professor Levitt said that the search for an authoritative definition “in some ways resembles the Quest for the Holy Grail.”  Given the confusion, some legal scholars have advocated simply dropping the use of the term.  

This is why some human rights groups like Amnesty International do not use the term “terrorism.”.  They say that in practice it is used to describe quite different conduct.  States describe acts or political motivations that they oppose as “terrorist,” while rejecting the use of the term when it relates to activities or causes they support. 

“Unfortunately,” say Arend and Beck, “the problematic term ‘terrorism’ like the complicated phenomenon it seeks to describe, will almost certainly persist.”  Not to engage in a struggle of definition, however, is to lose by default to the hegemony of definition by the vested powers behind the current “global war against terrorism.” 

Fortunately, some insightful thoughts in recent years might help shorten this “Quest for the Holy Grail.”  Arend and Beck themselves proposed “a working definition, one which characterizes both the terrorist act and the terrorist actor” rather than terrorism. They said a terrorist act is distinguished by at least three specific qualities:

  • violence, whether actual or threatened;
  • a ‘political’ objective, however conceived; and
  • an intended audience, typically though not exclusively  a wide one.

Hence, Arend and Beck define an “act of terrorism” as “the threat or use of violence with the intent of causing fear in a target group, in order to achieve political objectives.”  A more sophisticated version of this definition is “the threat or actual use of violence to create extreme fear or anxiety in a target group in order to coerce it to meet certain political or quasi-political objectives.”  

As for terrorist actors, whether individuals or groups, Arend and Beck categorized them by the strength of their association to states:

  1. those without state toleration, support or sponsorship;
  2. those with state toleration, but without state support or sponsorship;
  3. those with state support, but without immediate state sponsorship;
  4. those with state sponsorship.

To this we might add “those which are states.”  As has been noted, states are just as capable of committing terrorist acts as are non-state armed groups. 

But Nicholas Howen, the new Regional Director for Asia-Pacific of the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, in a paper for the International Council on Human Rights Policy in January 2002, says that “The problem in the UN is that states focus too much on who could be labelled a terrorist rather than what a terrorist act looks like… States could perhaps agree on a definition of terrorism if they limited it to attacks, aimed at civilians, that spread terror.  This would in effect apply to peacetime the existing prohibitions in international humanitarian law of attacks on civilians during armed conflicts.”  The elements of targeting civilians as well as spreading terror are what are missing in the Arend and Beck definition of terrorism.

The idea that international humanitarian law (IHL) “can provide guidance to the legal approach to terrorism in peacetime” was first broached by the long-time editor of the International Review of the Red Cross Hans-Peter Gasser as early as 1985 in a paper entitled “Prohibition of terrorist acts in international humanitarian law.”  And then Schmid in his 1992 report to the UN Crime Prevention Office suggested to consider an act of terrorism as “peacetime equivalent of a war crime.”

And so, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in his  addresses to the General Assembly on 1 October 2001 and to the Security Council on 12 November 2001, while acknowledging the definition of terrorism as one of the most difficult issues before the UN, nevertheless referred to IHL according to which “even in situations of armed conflict, the targetting of innocent civilians is illegal..”  Austrian Professor Hans Koechler, in his Fourteenth Centenary Lecture at the Philippine Supreme Court on 12 March 2002, refers to this allusion to IHL as “a useful hint as to how to bridge the gap between the opposing schools of thought concerning the definition of terrorism as a crime.”  

Koechler then proposes what he calls a comprehensive or unified approach:  In a universal and at the same time unified system of norms – ideally to be created as an extension of existing legal instruments -, there should be corresponding sets of rules (a) penalizing deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian infrastructure in wartime (as covered by the Geneva Conventions), and (b) penalizing deliberate attacks on civilians in peacetime (covered by the 12 so far anti-terrorist conventions).  He says “Such a harmonization of the basic legal rules related to politically motivated violent acts against civilians would make it legally consistent also to include the term ‘state terrorism’ in the general definition of terrorism.”

As regards the dilemma between terrorism and national liberation movements (which have the international legal right to use force in the exercise of their people’s right of self-determination against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes), Koechler further explains:  “Through such a comprehensive codification effort it could be made clear that resistance or national liberation movements must in no way resort to terrorist tactics and that a (politically eventually legitimate) aim does not necessarily justify the means (or any means for that matter).  In the general framework of a unified system of international humanitarian law, terrorist methods will be punishable irrespective of the specific political purpose and irrespective of whether those acts are committed by liberation movements or regular armies.”

In other words, as a rule, no national liberation movement or rebel group should be a priori exempted or condemned of culpability for terrorism by mere reason of its status as national liberation movement or rebel group.  Each and every act in question of the organization must be examined on a case to case basis whether it qualifies as a terrorist actAs an exception, only if there is a clear and consistent pattern, plan or policy (in short, something systematic) of terrorist acts or methods by the organization would it be justified to designate it as a “terrorist organization.”   One terrorist act does not necessarily make a terrorist organization, unless the act is based on a policy of employing terrorist acts (for example, a policy of suicide-bombing targetting innocent civilians, or a policy of reprisal aerial bombing or artillery/tank shelling targetting the civilian mass base of the enemy).

IHL itself uses the term “terrorism,” “acts of terrorism,”  “measures…of terrorism,” and “terror.”  So there should not be any shying away from these terms.  Rather, IHL may yet help establish a precise and legally sound definition of terrorism to obviate its being used as a political weapon by vested powers.   The Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, Article 33 makes reference to “measures…of terrorism.”  The 1977 Additional Protocol II Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts, Article 4, paragraph 2(d) makes reference to “acts of terrorism.” 

But it is the 1977 Additional Protocol I Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, Article 51, paragraph 2 and the identical Article 13, paragraph 2 of Protocol II which may be said to elaborate on the term “terrorism” and thus provide a core legal framework for a definition of terrorism.  The said identical provisions for both international and non-international armed conflicts read as follows:

The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack.  Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.”

From this provision for situations of armed conflict, one can draw some elements for a legal definition of terrorism in peacetime:

  1. making civilians the object of attack (deliberately targetting civilians)
  2. acts or threats of violence or use of weapons
  3. primary purpose of spreading terror or extreme fear among the civilian population

Of course, we should add two elements from the Arend and Beck concept of terrorist act:

  •  political or even quasi-political objective (to distinguish it from criminal madness)
  •  intended audience (not necessarily the target civilians). 

But the most important element is still the civilian target.  Malaysia’s definition of terrorism at the OIC Special Session shifts the defining element to the target rather than the source of the violence.  Stated otherwise, it is seeing terror from the victim’s point of view.  Of course, aside from the deliberate targetting of the civilian population and individual civilians, there can also be deliberate targetting of civilian objects or infrastructure to spread terror among the civilian population.

The element of spreading terror is also important as a distinguishing feature, if not the very essence, of terrorism.  Thus, the ILC’s 1991 Draft Code of Crimes against the Peace and Security of Mankind defines international terrorism as “undertaking, organizing, assisting, financing, encouraging or tolerating acts [by an agent of a State] against another State directed at persons or property and of such a nature as to create a state of terror in the minds of public figures, groups of persons or the general public…” (italics supplied)   Understandably, this definition, from the viewpoint of states, does not limit itself to civilian targets.

Some writers emphasize coercion to force the granting of political demands.  But this is not always the case.  In many cases, the act of terrorism is just a political statement without any demands.  SEPTEMBER 11 was certainly in that mold.  One aspect of intended audience is the accompanying publicity, considered an essential factor in terrorist strategy. 

Putting everything together now, one might come up with this core legal definition of terrorism:  the systematic employment by states, groups or individuals of acts or threats of violence or use of weapons deliberately targetting the civilian population, individuals or infrastructure for the primary purpose of spreading terror or extreme fear among the civilian population in relation to some political or quasi-political objective and undertaken with an intended audience.

We hope this attempt at a single inclusive definition of terrorism helps “the Quest for the Holy Grail.”  The sooner we achieve a precise and legally sound definition of terrorism, the better for the international community to act on the issue of terrorism.  Only with adherence to the international rule of law can we hope for no more SEPTEMBER 11s and other acts of terrorism.  Let’s roll with the rule of law, not the role of force.

*About the author. A.B. History cum laude (UP), Ll.B. (UNC), Ll.M. (Melb);  Member, Integrated Bar of the Philippines Camarines Sur Chapter;  legal scholar, legislative consultant,  and  peace advocate;  author of two recent books, The Moro Islamic Challenge: Constitutional Rethinking for the Mindanao Peace Process (University of the Philippines Press, 2001) and Peace Advocate: 50 Selected Writings, 1986-1997 (De La Salle University Press, 2002).

This piece is also published in Eurasia Review.

Photo Credit: Geneva Centre for Security Policy

New Philippine Anti-Terrorism Law: Fighting Terror to Protect Human Rights

by Rommel C. Banlaoi, PhD*

4 July 2020

Despite continuing public criticisms, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the new Philippine anti-terrorism law or the Republic Act 11479 on 3 July 2020 to serve as a lawful instrument to fight terror and not to cause terror.  Officially entitled “The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020”, the new law is strongly grounded on the universally accepted principle of human rights that the law intends to protect amidst clear and present danger posed by threats of terrorism in the Philippines, which are real and not only imagined.

Section 2 (Declaration of Policy) of RA 11479 upholds State policy “to protect life, liberty and property” of the Filipino people against terrorism.   RA 11479 even emphasizes that in the implementation of State policy against terrorism, “the State shall uphold the basic rights and fundamental liberties of the people as enshrined in the Constitution”.

The Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 or ATA is not only mindful of the need to protect human rights.   The ATA exists precisely because of human rights. The ATA fights terrorism as terrorism poses a grave threat to human rights not only of the Filipino people but also of the entire humanity.

In fact, the ATA views terrorism as “inimical and dangerous to national security of the country, and to the welfare of the people.”  The ATA also regards terrorism as “a crime against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the Law of Nations.”

Thus, the ATA is clearly against terrorism and not against human rights.   In the fight against terrorism, the ATA even has progressive provisions requiring that “respect for human rights” shall be “protected and absolute at all times”.

One important feature of the ATA is the explicit recognition that the fight against terrorism in the Philippines requires not only a legal approach.  The ATA emphasizes that a comprehensive approach is needed to defeat terrorism. 

This comprehensive approach comprises “political, economic, diplomatic, military and legal means duly taking into account the root causes of terrorism without acknowledging these as justifications for terrorist and/or criminal activities.”    In pursuing this comprehensive approach, the ATA requires the State to build its capacity to prevent and combat terrorism by promoting equitable economic development, conflict management and post-conflict peacebuilding.

As such, the ATA meets international standards in fighting terrorism as it implements the Global Counter Terrorism Strategy of the United Nations composed of four pillars: 1) Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; 2) Preventing and combating terrorism; 3) Building states’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the UN system in this regard; and, 4) Ensuring respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.

In addition, the ATA has strong provisions that vigorously guarantee protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism.   ATA even empowers the Commission of Human Rights to have “the highest priority to the investigation and prosecution of violations of civil and political rights of persons in relation to the implementation of this Act” (Section 47).   

The ATA also empowers Philippine courts, as it requires Regional Trial Courts to designate special anti-terrorism courts to speed up trials of terrorism-related cases.  In the preventive custody of suspected terrorists for fourteen days (14), the law requires law enforcement agents to notify the nearest court to ensure that all rights of the persons under preventive custody are protected and observed.

Thus, the ATA fights terrorism with justice.  The ATA even requires judicial authorization (Section 17) to uphold the rule of law in surveillance of terrorist suspects and interception and recording of communications pertaining to counterterrorism (Section 16).  The ATA requires Philippine law enforcement authorities to get the written order from the Court of Appeals to undergo secret wiretap operations.    The ATA also empowers the Court of Appeals in the proscription of terrorist organizations, associations or group of persons (Section 26).

Aside from empowering the judiciary, the ATA also provides oversight power to the Philippine Congress to establish Joint Oversight Committee (JOC) composed of twelve (12) members of the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate including their chairperson of the Committee on Public Order and five (5) additional members from each House to be designated by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.  The JOC is mandated to ensure effective and accountable governance of the Philippine security sectors involved in combating terrorism, particularly the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC).

The ATC is the main government agency tasked to implement the ATA, especially in protecting human rights while fighting terrorism.  Thus, the ATC is mandated to implement programs on preventing and countering terrorism, preventing and combating terrorism, international affairs and capacity building for counterterrorism, and legal affairs, particularly on the protection of the victims of terrorism (Section 45).

The ATA also has adequate provisions that account law enforcement authorities for violation of human rights during counterterrorism operations.    Section 30 provides the “Rights of a Person Under Custodial Detention”.   Penalty for “Violation of the Rights of Detainee” is in Section 31 stating, “The penalty of imprisonment of ten (10) years shall be imposed upon any law enforcement agent or military personnel who has violated the rights of persons under their custody.”

The ATA absolutely prohibits “Torture or Coercion in Investigation and Interrogation” (Section 33).  The ATA upholds the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, which prohibits the use of torture, and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment at any time during investigation or interrogation of a detained suspected terrorist. 

Law enforcement agent who is proven guilty of using torture will be penalized not only under ATA but also under existing Philippines laws.  Moreover, evidences gathered as a result of torture will be entirely inadmissible and cannot be used as evidence in any judicial, quasi-judicial, legislative or administrative investigation, and inquiry, proceeding or hearing.

Finally, the ATA is solely against terrorism and violent extremism.  The ATA is not against activism, unionism, and other peaceful isms.  In its definition of terrorism, the ATA clearly states that it does not include “ advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other exercises of civil and political rights” as long as those exercises will not cause “deaths or serious physical harm to person, to endanger a person’s life, or to create a serious risk to public safety” (Section 4).

In short, the ATA is not against human rights. The ATA is passed to fight terror in order to primarily protect human rights. 

Civil society organizations, human rights associations, cause-oriented groups, workers activists, students, teachers, celebrities and common citizens criticizing the ATA should continue raising their concerns, worries, fears, and apprehensions to ensure that the spirit of the ATA to protect human rights is duly promoted and observed by the State.

*The author is the Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and President of the Philippine Society for Intelligence and Security Studies (PSISS). 

This analysis also appeared in Eurasia Review.

Photo Credit: As used in Eurasia Review. Philippine soldiers secure an area where they encountered Abu Sayyaf bandits in Patikul, Sulu province, on the day a long-held Dutch hostage was shot as he tried to escape the militants during a firefight, May 31, 2019. Joint Task Force Sulu Handout

The ASEAN Summit and the South China Sea: Little Has Changed

by Mark Valencia*

2 July 2020

On 26 June, the leaders of the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held their 36th annual summit by video conference, after the in-person summit scheduled for April was postponed because of Covid-19. The pandemic was the main topic of discussions. But also high on the agenda was the South China Sea conundrum. 

In the run-up to the delayed summit, there were expectations in some quarters that the leaders – particularly of Vietnam and the Philippines – would strongly criticize China for its perceived transgressions against rival claimants in the South China Sea. But hope is not a good basis for objective analysis. As was predictable such hopes were dashed and the outcome of the meeting regarding the South China Sea was muted and ambiguous. That has left analysts to try to sort out the situation by reading the proverbial tea leaves.

Over the past year, China has taken actions that have alarmed some other claimants and stoked the US narrative that China is a threat to the region. After the early April sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat due to a collision with a Chinese Coast Guard vessel in China’s claimed waters off the Paracels, the US State Department expressed serious concern, adding that “this incident is the latest in a long string of PRC actions to assert unlawful maritime claims”. But this was simplistic hype that lumped different political and geographic circumstances as well as the degree of egregiousness and legitimacy of China’s actions. Each should be dealt with individually and there may be reasonable explanations for many of them. 

The China-Vietnam dispute over the Paracels and their attendant maritime zones is quite separate from its dispute with Vietnam and other ASEAN claimants over the Spratly features, maritime space and the resources there. China has occupied the Paracels for 45 years after seizing them from South Vietnamese forces in 1974. Fishing off China’s administrative capital, in violation of its laws, is extremely provocative. Moreover, it is not clear who was at fault. 

The State Department went on to link this incident to China’s other actions in the Spratlys. But China has as good a claim to the features as several other claimants. As others have done, it claims the right to build such installations on its territory and to name administrative districts to govern them. 

Another alleged transgression by China was the presence of its seismic research vessel in Vietnam and Malaysia’s claimed 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Vietnam considers China’s claims and actions a violation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), to which both are parties. But China may have an UNCLOS-compatible claim to part of the area, namely that the Paracels belong to China, that they are legal islands and that they generate an EEZ and a continental shelf extending out to 350 nm. They could also point out that Vietnam uses an excessive baseline that extends its EEZ and continental shelf in this area further than allowed by UNCLOS.  Moreover the joint Vietnam-Malaysia claim to extended continental shelf in the area is just that –only a claim – yet to be affirmed by the international process for doing so. 

Until an arbitration or an agreement determines otherwise, neither country should unilaterally proceed with exploitation – although surveying is permitted.  

Regarding “illegal” entrance of Malaysia’s EEZ, so far China’s vessels are only exercising their freedom of navigation there. Although the vessel appeared to have carried out a survey – it may have been in a carefully selected area beyond Malaysia’s 200 nm EEZ claim from a legitimate baseline off Sabah. Zubil Mat Som, the head of Malaysia’s maritime enforcement agency, said of the vessel, “We do not know its purpose but it is not carrying out any activities against the law”.  

Vietnam has been the most vocal regional critic of China’s actions in the South China Sea. It is the current ASEAN Chair and was the summit host. In his opening speech, Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said, “While the entire world was fighting an epidemic of irresponsible actions that violate international laws and pose threats to security and stability was taking place in some areas, including Vietnam’s.”  

But unlike the US, he did not call out China by name. Nor did any other leader, thus demonstrating respect, fear or both.

The Philippines is the current ASEAN lead interlocutor with China. President Rodrigo Duterte said little progress had been made “in producing deliverables” from the ASEAN-China dialogue. But perhaps his most significant observation was that ASEAN members and China “must find innovative ways and exercise flexibility to achieve our common goals”.  

According to Philippines Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, at least half of the ten ASEAN leaders raised the South China Sea issue. One can assume that, besides Vietnam and the Philippines, this would include Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. But it may not have been solely in veiled criticism of China.

The leaders were clearly concerned with the US-China military buildup in the region. As China’s PLAN continues its modernization and projections of power further out to sea, the US has responded by deploying forces from Europe to the Asia-Pacific. US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo declared, “We’re going to make sure we’re postured appropriately to counter the PLA [People’s Liberation Army].”

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that it was “important for ASEAN to keep sending out messages to great powers involved in the dispute to maintain regional peace and stability in the South China Sea”.  Considering previous relevant statements by high-level Indonesian government officials, this appears to be a plea to both China and the US to back off and exercise more restraint in their military deployment in the region.  

The statement of the ASEAN Chair said, “We underscored the importance of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities by claimants and all other states [emphasis added] which could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.” That could be interpreted to mean a concern with the behaviour of both China and the US – which, unlike China, is a non-claimant. If this were truly the unanimous sentiment of ASEAN, it would be new. 

The statement also “reaffirmed [emphasis added] that the 1982 UNCLOS is the basis for determining maritime entitlements, sovereignty, jurisdiction and legitimate interests over maritime zones.” If this endorsement of the sole role of UNCLOS in determining claims had been issued by ASEAN collectively, it could indeed be interpreted as a new level of veiled criticism of China’s claims. But it should be remembered that the non-negotiated statement was drafted by Vietnam, which has a particular axe to grind. Moreover, although some have seized upon this statement as “new“, it is not really “new”. Previous Chair statements have referred to UNCLOS as the guide for maritime claims and resolving disputes.  Also several rival claimants have previously individually asserted this principle. What may be new is the dropping of the concurrent reference to “international law”.

But it appears elsewhere and in the same sentence in para 64 in reference to the South China Sea (“and we reaffirmed the importance of upholding international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS”). The difference is certainly not clear because in ratifying UNCLOS, states are agreeing that it supersedes other applicable international law. Nevertheless, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State of the US – a non-ratifier of UNCLOS – hypocritically welcomed such a statement and gratuitously added that “China can’t be allowed to think about the SCS as its maritime empire”.  

The overall result regarding the South China Sea seems to be a mixed bag. The tea leaves say that regarding the South China Sea, ASEAN is still – or even more – disunited and worried about the China-US confrontation there and getting caught in between. For ASEAN and ASEAN-China relations in the South China Sea, little or nothing has changed.

*The author is an internationally known maritime policy analyst, political commentator and consultant focused on Asia. He is the author or editor of some 15 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles. He is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Haikou, China.A considerably shorter version of this piece first appeared in the Interpreter published by the Lowy Institute.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Horner/Getty Images as used by the Interpreter.

Parañaque Raid Against the Abu Sayyaf: Countering Terrorism in the City Amidst the Pandemic

Mary Ysabelle Samantha A. Chikiamco*

1 July 2020

On 26 June 2020,  four alleged Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were killed in a police raid at Don Bosco district in Parañaque City. Slained suspects were identified as:  1) Merhama Abdul Sawari, female; 2) Bensaudi Sali, male; 3) Rasmin Hussin, male; and, 4) Jamal Kalimming, male.

Based on police investigations, the four suspects were connected with Mundi Sawadjaan, a bomb expert who helped mastermind the January 2019 Jolo Cathedral suicide bombing that led to the death of twenty persons and wounding of more than 100 others. 

In fact, the Philippine police identified Merhama Abdul Sawari and Bensaudi Sali as members of the Daulah Islamiyah (Islamic State). The couple  allegedly served as financial conduits of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Philippines.

During the raid, the police found .45 pistols, wires, hand grenades, M16 rifle, and explosive materials, and firing devices with ISIS black flags.  These material evidences strengthened police suspicions that the four suspects were working for ISIS. 

Investigators also suspected that those killed ASG members were planning to conduct a terrorist attack in the country, particularly in Metro Manila, to wreak havoc during the COVID-19 pandemic as strongly encouraged worldwide by ISIS virtual central office.  But, investigations are still ongoing to confirm this suspicion.

Philippine law enforcement authorities raided the house at Better Living Subdivision, Barangay Don Bosco in Parañaque City based on information that the four suspects were acquiring illegal firearms. Judge Noemi Balitaan of Parañaque Regional Trial Court Branch 258 issued a search warrant to the Parañaque police office to investigate  the four suspects for violation of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act.

At around 12:26 AM of 26 June 2020, operatives from the police and the military were about to search the suspects’ residence. But before the operatives even entered the house, one of the suspects fired his gun towards the law enforcers triggering an unintended shootout operation. When suspects attempted to throw hand grenades to the police and military, the explosives mistakenly blew off.  The enforcers then fired their guns to break into the residence.  

At the end of the shootout operation, one police officer was wounded while the four suspects were declared Dead on Arrival at the Parañaque Hospital.

The killing of the four suspects strongly indicated that pro-ISIS elements in the Philippines still regarded Metro Manila as one of their main targets of terror.   It is also evident how terrorism remains a huge threat to the country and the whole world even when there is a deadly pandemic preoccupying our political, economic, and social lives.

It is indeed very alarming that the aforementioned ASG members associated with ISIS were able to enter Metro Manila with their dangerous firearms and ammunitions along with ISIS flags.

But thanks to the diligence of Philippine law enforcement authorities involved in the Parañaque incident, their decisive actions prevented a major terrorist attack in Metro Manila still suffering from the scourge of COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the neutralization of four terrorists in Parañaque City stressed the need for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign and expedite the implementation of the proposed Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.  The Philippines is truly in dire need to strengthen and develop its counterterrorism policies and laws in order to prevent such dangerous threats that can kill innocent lives. 

There is no doubt that the Parañaque City incident highlighted the need for enhanced protection of public security and general welfare as terrorists   operate throughout the Philippines with the intentions and capabilities to mount deadly attacks at any time and any place, particularly in the cities of Metro Manila. 

The urgent task of Philippine law enforcement authorities is to deny these terrorists to find opportunities to carry out their plans.  A new anti-terrorism law is a lawful approach towards this end.

* The author is a senior student taking up BA International Studies at Miriam College, the Philippines.  She is currently undergoing internship at the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR). This analysis also appeared in Eurasia Review.

Photo Credit: Paranaque City welcome marker in Metropolitan Manila, Philippines. Ramon F Velasquez, Wikipedia Commons as used by Eurasia Review.

Why The Philippines Needs An Anti-Terrorism Law

by Anna Malindog-Uy*

27 June 2020


It has been three years now since the tragic “Marawi Siege”. But until now, terrorist attacks continue to permeate the Philippines making it hard for the government to secure its citizens from those who persistently seek to attack the lives and the way of life of every Filipino.

Terrorist Threats in the Philippines

The Marawi Siege just like the tragic events of 11 September (9/11), the Bali bombings, and the home-grown terrorists’ attacks in London, is the quintessence of the country’s long struggle against terrorism. Even while facing a deadly pandemic, the internal and external threats of terrorism are continuously making a dent in the country’s peace and security; compounding the already difficult situation brought about by the novel coronavirus.

Hence, it cannot be denied that the Philippines, more predominantly the southern part of the country where the Maute Group also known as the Islamic State of Lanao, and the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) then linked with international terror organisation, Al-Qaeda and now with the Islamic State are situated, has long been a haven of terrorist activities.

There’re also the intimidations posed by pro-IS Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF), whose leader Sheik Muhiddin Animbang, alias Commander “Kagi Karialan” recently made a plea to his followers to unleash attacks against the government of the Philippines. BIFF forces are mainly situated in the forested and mountainous areas of Maguindanao and Cotabato and are unhappy with the government’s policy of not allowing congregation in mosques because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This according to them is “destroying Islam.”

The country has also faced growing aggression from the New People’s Army (NPA) of the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF). The CPP-NPA-NDF is listed as a terrorist organisation by the United States (US), European Union (EU), the United Kingdom (UK), Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

The Philippines is also vulnerable to possible external attacks from extremist networks like ISIS and elements of the Southeast Asian terror group, Jemaah Islamiyah.

On 17 April, 2020, 11 soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were killed, while 14 others were wounded during an encounter with suspected ASG members in Brgy Danag, Patikul, Sulu. Likewise, on 27 May, 2020 six thousand residents of Maguindanao had to abandon their homes because of terrorist attacks. And on 5 June, the AFP lost four more soldiers while 17 others were injured in another military encounter with members of the ASG in Sitio Lagaron in Barangay Kan-Ague, Patikul, Sulu.

On 21 March, 2020 in Iligan city, the 44th Infantry Battalion (44th IB) of the AFP was able to thwart an attempted attack by the NPAs to disrupt a government information campaign on COVID-19 in Barangay Penaranda, Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay. Then on 28 March, the NPA launched another attack on government forces in Rizal. Around 30 NPA rebels assaulted a group of 18 Philippine Army Community Support Program Team (PACSPT) soldiers who were in Barangay Puray, Rizal distributing leaflets and relief goods to distraught residents affected by the enhanced community quarantine. 

The said clash took the life of one soldier and also one fatality on the part of the NPA. Similarly, on 7 April, 2020, the NPA launched an assault in Pantukan, Davao de Oro, where they attacked the Philippine National Police Mobile Force Company in Barangay Tangdanua. On the same day (7 April), around 30 NPA rebels attacked village officials distributing relief assistance at Sitio Nagon in Barangay Guinmayohan, Balangiga Eastern Samar and forcibly seized some portion of the relief supplies/aid intended for residents of the area affected by the quarantine measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In Calbiga Samar, along a route between Barangays Hubasan and Binanggaran, communist rebels planted landmines as a plot to ambush government forces, which also posed a threat to the lives of the residents of the said areas. Two suspected NPA operatives were intercepted at Barangay Llavac in Real, Quezon, where two anti-personnel mines and four blasting caps were confiscated by the 1st Infantry Battalion. On 22 April, the NPA launched another attack using a bomb on a remote village in Paquibato District, Davao City to disrupt the distribution of a cash emergency subsidy under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) in the area. Two soldiers were slightly wounded during the fight. 

In retrospect, the Philippines is indeed facing serious security challenges on multiple fronts. Muslim extremist groups and the NPA are certainly taking advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak, and are continuously pursuing acts of violence and aggression against government forces and innocent civilians. Now more than ever, it becomes imperative for the government to effectively respond not only to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 virus but also to the threats of terrorism in the country. 

The Anti-Terrorism Bill    

The Anti-Terrorism Bill, which has been officially transmitted to the Office of the President for signing as confirmed by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on 9 June, 2020, is the improved version of the Human Security Act of 2007. The said bill, just like the Human Security Act of 2007, is very controversial and is confronted by debates between the realists/pragmatists who are cognisant of the need for tougher and compelling counter-terrorism legislation grounded on actual realities, and those who are out of touch and have failed to recognise the enormity and seriousness of numerous terrorist threats confronting the country. 

The Anti-Terrorism Bill just like the Human Security Act of 2007 is being opposed by the political opposition and human rights groups who are claiming that the bill contains dangerous provisions that could be abused by authorities once implemented. Others are saying that it has unconstitutional provisions that would undermine the Bill of Rights enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. 

However, the principal author of the bill, Senator Panfilo Lacson argued that the “Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020” aims to secure the country and its people from domestic and foreign terrorist attacks. He said that with the help of his colleagues in the Senate, he has made sure that the bill adheres to the Bill of Rights enumerated in the 1987 Constitution. He even articulated that he incorporated most of the provisions of the Anti-Terrorism laws of other strong democracies like Australia and the US, which by far are guided by the standards set by the United Nations (UN).

Despite the explanations and justifications offered by Senator Lacson, those who oppose the bill continue to advocate a popular misconception that the Anti-Terrorism Bill is the anti-thesis of human rights and would likely violate the fundamental rights of Filipinos the moment it is passed into law. This is preposterous. Human rights principles are not rigid and do not constrain the government from effectively countering dangers posed by terrorism. International human rights principles/laws, being the reverberations of the great world wars have long recognised the necessity to strike a balance between national security interests of a particular state and the fundamental rights of its inhabitants. 

Practically speaking, this means that on issues such as terrorism, individual rights have to be balanced against the collective security and collective rights of the greater number of people, especially if it’s about securing the collective survival of the greater number of people against aggression and the destruction of human lives caused by terrorism. This further means that human rights laws/principles allow governments to take protective actions proportionate to the severity of the threats. Hence, terrorism being a gross human rights violation requires tougher and stronger counter-terrorism legislation that is proportionate to the objective of safeguarding and preserving the national security and integrity of a particular state/government. 

By the same token, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 is a stronger and tougher piece of legislation compared to the Human Security Act of 2007, which according to its principal author Senator Lacson, “aims to protect the Philippines and its citizens from terrorist acts that know no timing nor borders, perpetrated in a manner so sudden, least expected and indiscriminate – as in, anytime, probably even today, tomorrow or next week”, endowed with equally strong check and control mechanisms that protect and safeguards the individual rights of people who might be subjected to it in the advent that it becomes a law.” 


Terrorism is a global predicament, and no country is invulnerable to it. The Philippines has experienced terrorism for more or less 44 years which started on 7 April, 1976 when three Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members hijacked a Philippine Airlines BAC-111 jetliner from Southern Philippines and ordered it flown to Libya. Until this very day, even in the midst of a deadly pandemic, the country is continuously being tormented by the scourge of terrorist attacks coming from but not limited to the Maute Group, ASG, BIFF, and even the NPA. 

The dangers and threats of terrorism in the Philippines are both, legitimate and real. Hence, the government has both the duty and the right to catechise counter-terrorism legislative measures that will protect the national security and integrity of the country and to safeguard its citizens from the brutal and ruthless effects of terrorism. The Anti-Terrorism Bill serves that purpose. 

The Anti-Terrorism Bill – if rendered with fair and objective judgment – will strike a balance between effectiveness in responding to the threat of terrorism and protecting basic human rights principles. The bill has safeguard provisions that protect the basic human rights of Filipinos enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. It has safeguards against abuse, error, and illegality. It also has provisions where charges or actual enforcement of the bill’s provision by its implementers will be subject to quick, effective, and a full review by independent courts in the country. 

Hence, the fears of those who want the bill junked are mislaid. The concern probably should not be on the bill per se, but rather on the strict and proper implementation of the said bill the moment it becomes a law. And this is a completely different matter altogether.

Moreover, the hostility and antagonism accorded to the Anti-Terrorism Bill by fragments of Philippine society should not be construed as representing the entire Filipino nation because that is not true. Many, if not the majority of Filipinos recognise the importance of enacting the Anti-Terrorism Bill into law. 

Likewise, it also doesn’t mean that just because some sections of the community are against the bill, the government of the Philippines will abandon its position or its course of action for fear of offending those who oppose it.    

In the advent of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the threats posed by COVID-19 and terrorism are both serious and real and need the utmost consideration of the government. It’s not either-or, or neither-nor, it’s both, and both need to be addressed swiftly. It will not be to the detriment of Filipinos if the government responds to both threats, rather it will be for their safety. There should be no duality or contradiction. The COVID-19 pandemic and terrorism are lethal threats to the country and both deserve attention.

*Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy is a researcher, academic and consultant on a wide array of issues. She has worked with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other local and international NGOs as a consultant. She is President of Techperformance Corp, an IT-based company in the Philippines. This article originally appeared in the ASEAN Post.

Photo Credit: Pinglacson.Net