ISIS threat to Philippine security

After Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is posing a serious threat to Philippine security.  

Otherwise known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, now recently called by its followers as Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham, ISIS, thus far, is the most violent extremist jihadist armed group operating predominantly in Iraq and Syria. But ISIS has a delusion to expand its operations in the Muslim world not only in the Middle East and North Africa but also in Muslim areas stretching from Europe to Asia.

The Philippines is not spared the ISIS threat because it has self-proclaimed followers among Muslim Filipinos or Moros who just performed a Bay-ah or pledge of allegiance to ISIS founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (READ: Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu)

On June 29, 2014, Baghdadi proclaimed himself as the overall leader or a Caliph of a so-called independent ISIS Caliphate. ISIS followers call this Caliphate as Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah Fi Al-Iraq Wa-Al Sham.

In May 2014, Muslims in the Philippines, who called themselves part of the Ansar Dawlah Fi Filibbin, posted a video showing a few men in white dress performing a Bay-ah to Baghdadi.

In Islamic parlance, a Bay-ah is an oath of allegiance to a Muslim leader. It is practiced in the Muslim world to recognize the establishment of a new caliphate or Islamic monarchy. In some places, Muslims performed the Bay-ah to “sell” themselves to a spiritual leader as a quid pro quo for physical protection, financial support, or spiritual assistance.

The May 2014 video was filmed a month before Baghdadi proclaimed an independent ISIS Caliphate. Titled “Filipina Support for ISIS and Bay-at to Shaikh Abu Bakar  Al Baghdady (Hafidzahullah),” the video displayed a few men speaking in Arabic to express their support for and loyalty to ISIS and its leader Baghdadi. In the latter part of the video, these men spoke in Filipino, reiterating their allegiance to ISIS and submission to Baghdadi.

In July 2014, another video appeared on some Internet sites showing Muslim detainees in the Philippines performing the same Bay-ah to Baghdadi. The detention area appeared to be the Special Intensive Care Area (SICA) of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.  

SICA is known to be a “high risk” detention facility detaining suspected “high risk” personalities associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and even the New People’s Army (NPA), the Alex Boncayao Group (ABG) and drug syndicates.

SICA was the scene of the controversial “Bicutant Siege” of May 2005, which resulted in the death of infamous ASG leaders involved in the internationally renown 2000 Sipadan Kidnappings: Commander Robot (Galib Andang), Commander Kosovo  (Alhamser Limbong), and Commander Global (Nadzmi Sabdullah).

Though Philippine law enforcement authorities have not yet officially confirmed or validated if the video was indeed filmed inside SICA, the fact that it was produced in a Philippine jail facility is enough reason for serious security concerns.

Black Flag

Apparent from these two videos were the tantamount display of the Black Flag associated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda.  

ISIS was originally the Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and was an integral part of the Al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operating in the Middle East. Thus, the use of ISIS of the Black Flag was something to do with its Al-Qaeda origin. This Black Flag is also being used by militants associated with the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operating in Africa. 

But Al-Qaeda disowned ISIS because of its very brutal military activities and harsh tactical offensives in Iraq and Syria affecting many innocent civilians. In April 2013, ISIS proclaimed its independence from Al-Qaeda. But ISIS continues to use the Black Flag.

The so-called Black Flag Movement is very active in the Philippines. The ASG uses the Black Flag as a backdrop in their photos and videos every time they demand ransom payments for their kidnap victims. The shadowy Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM) also uses the Black Flag on its Facebook and Twitter accounts and its various propaganda activities in central Mindanao.   

In February 2014, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) seized a Black Flag in the military camp of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) at the Reina Regente Complex in Maguindanao.

The Black Flag seems to be the unifying factor among violent extremist groups operating in the Philippines. ISIS use of the Black Flag resonates strongly in the Philippines.  

The two videos showing a few Muslims in the Philippines expressing allegiance to ISIS with the use of the Black Flag demonstrate that ISIS threat to Philippine security is real rather than imagined. - Rappler.com

Rommel Banlaoi is Head of the Center for Intelligence National Security Studies (CINSS) of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and teaches at the department of international studies, Miriam College.