Student symposium to counter violent extremism held in Manila

A member of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force speaks before students in Manila./US Embassy/

A high-ranking United States Army official has acknowledged the role of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force’s engagement with communities and universities to the Philippines’ “whole of nation approach to countering violent extremism.”

U.S. Army Capt. Robert Barnes made the statement after the PNP-SAF held a  regional student leadership symposium focused on countering violent extremism on June 23 and 24 in Manila.

Barnes and Sgt. Luke Wernette of the Embassy’s Military Information Support Team assisted the PNP-SAF in planning the symposium, which, according to a US embassy statement, “drew diverse participants from around the region, including university students from across western Mindanao, senior research faculty from the University of Indonesia, students from the University of Tun Abdul Razak in Malaysia, representatives from the Philippines Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the president of the Imam Council of the Philippines, the Deputy Director of the PNP-SAF Police Chief Superintendent Dennis Basgni, retired Police Commissioner Felizardo Serapio Jr., and the PNP-SAF’s 1st and 5th Special Action Battalions (1SAB and 5SAB).”

“The connection and level of trust established by the 1st and 5th Special Action Battalions with the youth of their communities has been eye opening and should serve as an effective model for the local implementation of counter-terrorism programs,” Barnes said.

Among those who spoke during the symposium were Ebra Moxsir, President of the Imam Council of the Philippines, who shared insights into the Marawi siege and how violent extremists manipulated religion during the conflict; 27 27 student leaders from the PNP-SAF’s Student Action Force, who emphasized community outreach efforts in Mindanao, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu, including the cities of Marawi, Iligan, and Zamboanga; among others.

“The Regional Student Leadership Symposium is a perfect tool to protect our youth from the dangers of extremism and terrorism.  To protect our youth is to protect the future of our land,” said Police Senior Inspector Jack E. Angog, 1SAB Commander.