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Hataman, Sangcopan file bill to allow ex-Abu Sayyaf members reintegrate into PH society

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Two lawmakers on Thursday filed a measure seeking to prevent and counter violent extremism in the country through a program that combines measures to reduce the appeal of radicalism to the youth with a reintegration process for extremists into society.

Deputy Speaker and Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman and Anak Mindanao Rep. Amihilda Sangcopan filed House Bill 4585, which seeks to establish a program for Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) to fight the ever-present threat of terrorism.

“Violent extremism has no place in a peace-loving society such as ours. It takes lives, hurts people, stunts progress and strikes fear into the heart of peaceful communities. It corrupts religious beliefs and distorts moral standards to serve a vicious end: that is to pursue a political cause through acts of terrorism,” said Hataman and Sangcopan in the bill’s explanatory note.

“Ang bill na ito ay para maiwasan at ma-address ang violent extremism at terorismo, at ma-engganyo ang mga miyembro ng mga grupong ito na magbalik-loob na sa lipunan at iwanan ang ganitong klase ng pamumuhay,” Hataman added.

The two lawmakers said that the measure is timely, with the recent bombings in Sulu that “saw the escalation of atrocities carried out by local extremist groups.”

The bombing of a military camp in Indanan, Sulu in June this year is the first confirmed case of a Filipino as a perpetrator of a suicide bombing in the country.

Two other recent bombings were perpetrated by violent extremist groups: one is in front of a public market in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, on Sept. 7 where seven people were hurt, and the other in Indanan, Sulu, on Sept. 9, where the lone casualty was the perpetrator herself.

Under the bill, a returnee from violent extremist groups such as Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group and the like will be considered as such if he or she returns to the fold, reforms and reintegrates into society. An inter-agency committee will be established to oversee the program under the law.

It will be chaired by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Department of National Defense (DND) as co-chairs.

Among the benefits eyed for returnees include the following:

Safety and security guarantees.

Support to relocation or housing services for the returnees and their families.

Monetary assistance to aid families while processing enrolment into the program.

Livelihood assistance to improve their socio-economic conditions.

Reintegration assistance.

Educational and training assistance.

Enrollment in the National Health Insurance Program.

Assistance in registering with government entities.

Healing and reconciliation initiatives to provide psycho-social support to returnees.

Other assistance as may be determined by the Inter-Agency Committee.

On the prevention side, the measure has provided an array of projects and activities that are envisioned to reduce or completely eliminate the appeal of radicalism to the people, especially the youth. These include activities promoting good governance, upholding the rule of law and eliminating corruption

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