Military chief wants social media use regulated under anti-terror law

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    NEW Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gilbert Gapay on Monday said he wants the use of social media regulated under the new Anti-Terrorism Law “because this is the platform now being used by the terrorists to radicalize, to recruit and even plan terrorist acts.”

    In a virtual press briefing after assuming his new post, the former Army chief said the military will provide inputs to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) being drafted by the Department of Justice to prevent the radicalization of the youth.

    Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the IRR will be completed within the 90-day period provided under the anti-terrorism law, and the DOJ legal team will consult “law enforcement and military institutions” and coordinate with intelligence agencies for inputs.

    The law, which took effect on July 18, is subject of 21 petitions questioning its constitutionality.

    Guevarra, asked if the IRR will cover social media use, said “it is too early to say.”

    Supporters of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group have used social media to spread propaganda against the military when the terrorist group attacked and later occupied several barangays of Marawi City in May 2017. The five month-conflict in Marawi City resulted in the death of about a thousand terrorists, 168 soldiers and policemen, and 47 civilians. It also brought massive destruction to the city which is still being rebuilt.

    Gapay said he also wants the regulation of agricultural supplies under the IRR, referring to ammonium nitrate which are used by terrorist groups in manufacturing explosives.

    “We know that simple agricultural implements, agricultural supplies would be turned into IEDs (improvised explosive devices). That’s why we will input certain provisions how to regulate these materials used in the manufacture of IEDs,” said Gapay.

    “Those are just certain areas we anticipate and we will see wherein we would make inputs in the IRR,” said Gapay who described the new anti-terror law as “very good,” “comprehensive” and “proactive.”

    Gapay said he wants mechanisms to be institutionalized at the grassroots levels “to really address this threat of terrorism in our country.”

    Also, he said he wants intelligence sharing, locally and with foreign counterparts, institutionalized “because this is a a global threat that we need to address, that’s why intelligence fusion, intelligence sharing is very vital.”

    He said there is also a need to strengthen maritime security, noting that foreign terrorists are able to slip into the country through the porous border.

    Gapay said the implementation of the anti-terrorism law would be his focus as AFP chief. Gapay is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on February 4 next year.

    He said his other focus is the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 issued in December 2018, which institutionalized a whole-of-nation approach to achieve peace and established a National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

    Gapay said that while the military has done well during the first semester of the year in the campaign against threat groups, “that is not enough.”

    He said he will pursue reforms for “operational effectiveness, organizational efficiency, personnel development and well-being and stakeholders collaboration.”

    “Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, we will see to it that the implementation of Executive Order No. 70 and the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 will remain our top priority to place a definite end to terrorism,” he said.

    Gapay replaced Gen. Felimon Santos and is scheduled to relinquished his post as Army chief to outgoing AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana on Tuesday, August 4. — With Ashzel Hachero