MANILA: Security officials in the Philippines have praised the efforts of the Muslim community in helping to maintain peace and order in the north of the country.
The military and police on Tuesday launched a joint campaign called Natalna II to tackle the threat posed by armed groups, especially communist rebels, in Northern Luzon. The communist rebellion in the country, considered the longest insurgency in Asia, has claimed more than 100,000 lives in the past five decades.
“There are many things that (the Muslim community is) doing, such as joining us in some of our civil-military operations,” said Brig. Gen. Laurence Mina, commander of the 5th Infantry Division, during a launch ceremony for Natalna II at the Northern Luzon Command (NolCom) headquarters in Tarlac City.
“They do medical missions. They help us in our efforts to win back (trust and support). They are good people; we talk to them. And their leaders, they come to us to report if they see anything suspicious. They themselves keep watch on their communities and if something occurs, they tell us.”
While the primary focus of Natalna II is defeating the communist guerrillas, it will also address potential threats from Daesh-affiliated groups in response to the arrest of militants in the Ilocos region last year.
Those arrests were the “result of information sharing, coordination and collaboration among all units within the NolCom area,” said Maj. Gen. Ferdinand Daway, director of the Directorate of Integrated Police Operations Northern Luzon.
To maintain the support they receive from Muslim communities, Daway said, police officers are in constant communication with them. In particular, the Salaam Police is a task force that is responsible for working with Muslim communities and their religious leaders, especially over matters of security and cultural differences in the predominantly Christian country.
“We see to it that we coordinate and mingle with all their imams within the community,” said Daway. “We listen to them, their concerns, and they also inform us what’s going on in their communities.”