Manila (the Philippines), 1 March 2012 - During the past decade, the people of the Philippines have borne the brunt of a number of terrorist attacks - many of which have directly led to numerous civilian deaths. The country is now in the forefront of regional efforts draw support from the United Nations in terms of specialist legal expertise on countering terrorism.
In fact, the year 2011 saw a sharp increase in the level of partnership between the Philippines and UNODC on countering terrorism. Following extensive consultations last year, which involved more than a dozen national agencies, the Government of the Philippines and UNODC formalized a long-term partnership programme in last October.
Under its strengthened partnership with the Philippines, UNODC will support legislative modifications on the main national CT law (the Human Security Act), the financing of terrorism, extradition and mutual legal assistance. During February, national experts led by the Department of Justice and UNODC experts worked closely together to prepare draft legislation on mutual legal assistance.
Several expertise-building activities are also underway. Most recently, also in February, UNODC experts worked with the ATC and other national institutions to start joint training of officials from various CT entities on collaborative investigation and prosecution of terrorism-related cases. This initiative will deliver three important results: (1) a sustained pool of well-equipped national trainers to cover a selected number of priority areas, (2) training course material for those priority areas and (3) the conduct of a series of training courses for directly involved officials in priority regions of the country.
These initiatives will bring together key national entities ranging from the Department of Justice and the Prosecutor-General's Office to the Philippines National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
At national level, counter-terrorism efforts are led by the Programme Management Centre of the Anti-Terrorism Council which operates directly under the Executive Office of the President.
"We know that we need to improve our ability to detect and prevent terrorists from succeeding," said Under-Secretary Nabil Tan, Executive Director of the Anti-Terrorism Council, during a recent meeting with UNODC experts. "It is crucial that we improve our commitment and ability to work together and we welcome the valuable assistance that UNODC is offering", he continued.
UNODC has been involved in supporting counter-terrorism efforts of the countries in Southeast Asia since 2003. In 2011, in consultation with the concerned countries and other stake-holders, UNODC initiated a CT partnership programme entitled "East and Southeast Asia Partnership on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism". It is being implemented through country-specific programmes of activities in the Philippines and Indonesia. Lao PDR and Vietnam are in the final stages of approving country programmes. The objective of the programme is to support the countries in their efforts to "achieve preparedness against terrorism and implement rule of law-based CT measures".