BY PETER LAVIÑA
Thank God, the Kadayawan festivities are now over without any unto-ward incident. We should commend local autho-rities led by Mayor RodyDuterte, the local PNP and the Task Force Davao for the violent-free celebration. Kudos likewise to all the people and visitors of Davao who kept faith in our unity to celebrate the Kadayawan in peace.
Both the local govern-ment and the sponsoring groups in the private sector did spend a lot to keep the week-long festival safe and orderly. We do not really know the exact amount how much we spent for security during the festivities, but it must be emphasized that these security expenses are now truly important, and highly justified, given the threats of terrorism, local and international.
Some 1,600 police and military personnel were deployed during the Kadayawan. Brazil, which is hosting the Olympic Games next year, plans to deploy as many 60,000 troops to secure athletes and tourists coming in for the summer spectacle. This huge expense alone is becoming a real burden on Brazil and its current government is beset with opposition to the hosting of the games.
Yes, that is how important security has become here or in Brazil and elsewhere around the world given the many threats now spawned by violent extremism.
Not many people in Davao know that early this year, the White House hosted a Summit on Countering Violent Extremism or CVE. It is the latest buzzword that is now the global focus from Cairo to Canberra, from Ankara to Amsterdam.
Extremism means driving something to the limit, to the extreme or to express strong disapproval against norms. Nowadays, the term is mostly being used in a religious and/or political context, for a faith or an ideology that is considered by a believer to be far outside the current acceptable attitudes of society.
Violent extremism means a believer has reached a decision to put the law into his or her own hands and carry out to the extreme measures his beliefs by using violence to either defend or push such faith and ideology which he espouses.
The Feb. 17-19 meeting in Washington DC was an international effort to prevent violent extremists and their supporters from radicalizing, recruiting, or inspiring individuals or groups to commit acts of violence.
Foreign leaders, ministers, senior officials from the United Nations and regional organizations, and private and civil society representatives discussed a broad range of challenges facing nations working to prevent and counter violent extremism.
Other countries from around the world have also brought together ministers and foreign leaders, civil society and private sector represen-tatives, and senior officials from the UN and other organizations at regional summits, aimed at taking concrete steps to prevent violent extremism. Results of these summits hopefully can become a key thrust in the next United Nations General Assembly in September.
For instance, a Regional Summit to Counter Violent Extremism was held last June 11-12 in Sydney, Australia. It was attended by representatives from the Philippines.
The Australian Re-gional CVE Summit provided an important platform for participants to collaborate to meet the shared challenge posed by the dissemination of terrorist propaganda. These propaganda are particularly through the internet, and has powerful appeal to youth and people with nascent grievances against authorities.
Participants at the Summit recognized that the online environment has no borders and terrorist propaganda can reach everyone in the region online. This is where a collective effort is required to counter this threat.
Unlike in the past when terrorists organize, seek materials, plan and undertake attacks, today, a political mentor can easily convince young people via the internet, some with actual grievances, others only driven by sheer faith and militancy, to become suicide bombers.
The recent shooting incident on a train from Amsterdam to Paris and the rash of bombings in downtown Bangkok highlighted anew the threats of terrorism, whether by fanatic groups or so-called “lone wolf” terrorist. We also give particular attention on the attacks on bloggers in Bangladesh, for example, for posting contrary views on religious fanaticism. At least four bloggers have already been murdered because they wrote critical posts against extremism.
No less than Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has been warning us that neo terrorists have become sophisticated they no longer operate in traditionally large formations or cells. Just one person, driven by extremist propaganda, can wreck havoc in largely civilian targets by bombing, such as in the case of our experiences, airports, seaports, churches or moviehouses. Festivals or large public events attract these terrorists who are not only after harming the most number of innocent people, but gaining wide media mileage as well for their causes.
In these CVE summits, we learned for instance where violent extremism best breeds these “terrorist.” The Philippines, and particularly Mindanao, is a particular concern by the international community because the factors of breeding extremism is present here. These include the on-going armed conflict, presence of Muslim armed groups, and history of terrorist violence.
So, it is vital that we should understand these things and help to counter and combat violent extremism. How can we help counter it? With more tolerance, more understanding, more acceptance of other cultures, other religions, other political ideologies, among others.
With the Kadayawan now over, we need to prepare anew for the next festival, the Paskuhan, which could attract not just tourists, but violent extremist as well. The former to celebrate with us, the latter to disrupt and inflict harm. Preparation is our best defense against such threats. We should continue to figure out how to be several steps ahead against these misguided elements, reject their extremism, and denounce their violence.