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Why Philippines remain a weak link in war against terror

Updated On: Mar 08, 2005

Manila- A host of problems -from lack of funds to poor cooperation among agencies to difficulty in infiltrating closely-knit terrorist groups -is undermining thePhilippines’ war against terror,said analysts.

Despite years of training and on-the-ground advice by US special forces, thePhilippinesis seen as one of the weakest links against terrorism inSoutheast Asia, reported Reuters.

There is also a perception that the authorities tend to accuse and parade terrorist suspects on the slimmest of evidence.

"I have learned never to take Philippine government statements at face value until lots of other evidence is in,''Ms Sidney Jones, an expert on Islamic militancy in the region at the International Crisis Group, told Reuters.

"I get the sense they don't really know what's going on," she added.

The police, military and Anti-Terrorism Task Force share responsibility for combating militant groups and preventing attacks. The result is often confusion rather than cohesion.

“I don't get a sense they are working well together and bridging bureaucratic hurdles,” one security analyst said.

About half the annual one billion pesos in intelligence funds goes to the President's office. Not all of that money finds its way to the front lines due to corruption.

One of the biggest obstacles to improving intelligence has been infiltrating militant groups. The job has been made harder by the rise inMindanaoof a more hardline, Middle East-influenced Islam in recent years.

Officials say Philippine intelligence was unprepared to meet this threat, having dealt with more secular Muslim rebels who were easily bought with money and government positions.

The country's image has not been helped by a tendency to arrest the wrong people, let the right people escape and to issue statements that turn out to be false.

Security officials say they are hampered by the lack of an anti-terror law to give them greater powers of prosecution and surveillance.

* Lack of funds, red tape hurting Philippines' terror fight (Bangkok Post, Feb 5)