MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A 29-year-old Australian citizen believed to be a leader of a group of Islamic militants calling for global jihad is now under the custody of Philippine immigration authorities.
Immigration chief Siegfred Mison identified the alleged terrorist as Robert Edward Cerantonio who was immediately arrested by joint elements from the Bureau of Immigration and the Philippine National Police in Cebu shortly after a warrant for his deportation was issued on Thursday, July 10.
Authorities immediately brought Cerantonio to the Immigration’s holding facility in Bicutan where he remains while waiting for his actual deportation to Australia.
On July 7, the Australian police informed Philippine Immigration officials about the cancellation of Cerantonio’s passport. The Australian Ministry for Foreign Affairs cancelled his passport after Australian intelligence authorities identified him as being the one behind messages sent to suspected terrorists calling for extremism.
Cerantonio, believed to be staying in the Philippines for about a year already, is a Christian convert to Islam who has been using social media to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq. He has been identified as one of the two most influential voices inspiring and guiding foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Reports said he combined traditional media with new media: his radical teachings are on YouTube, and he engages and spreads the same ideology espoused by al-Qaeda on Twitter and Facebook.
With the Philippines as his haven, Cerantonio used the Internet to urge people to undertake extremist activities. These acts violate anti-terrorism laws, especially those of Australia and the Philippines.
According to a paper published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) in April, one in 4 foreign fighters followed Cerantonio’s Twitter account. On Twitter, he uses highly inflammatory language. (READ: ISIS online cheerleader Musa Cerantonio spotted in PH)
Cerantonio was observed to be far more active on Facebook. His Facebook page was the third most “liked” page among jihadists and has been “explicit in his endorsement of violent jihad and support for jihadist organizations operating in Syria,” according to ICSR.
Cerantonio has been seen in Manila, Cebu and Zamboanga, Rappler sources said. His activities in the Philippines, according to Mison, “pose a risk to public interest.” He added, "Cerantonino was charged for being undocumented and for being an undesirable alien."
"Cerantonio will be deported to Australia when all the documents necessary for deportation are complete," Mison said. (READ: Online preacher Musa Cerantonio leaves Philippines to join ISIS?)
"Among the documents required for deportation is the NBI clearance to make sure that the subject has no pending case in our local courts," Mison added. – Rappler.com