DIPLOMATS AS A FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE FOR COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM

The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) conducted a “Training Course on Counterterrorism” from 09 to 13 December 2019 for Foreign Service Officers in the Home Office and Foreign Service Posts.

This course was organized by the Institute through the training services offered by the Global Risk Mitigation Foundation (GRMF), a non-profit organization based in Honolulu and focused on the development of holistic, comprehensive risk assessments, and innovative education-based solutions. 

The “Training Course in Counterterrorism” is one of the innovations being introduced by FSI to level up the quality and breadth of its course offerings by focusing on specialized areas highly relevant to the work of foreign service personnel and tapping the expertise of resource persons from other countries.

The course ran under the guidance of three (3) resource persons, who provided lectures and facilitated discussions during this five-day training course:

  • Kim Jensen was a former FBI Chief Counterterrorism Center instructor and was the Legal Liaison officer for the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon during his tenure with the FBI.

He was instrumental in developing the highly successful U.S. counterterrorism response that paralleled the techniques deployed against extremists by the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

  • Ripley McGuinn is a retired FBI Special Agent with significant depth and experience working on counterterrorism measures with his career particularly focused on efforts to counter violent extremism in Southeast Asia.

He is a recognized subject matter expert regarding the Philippine-based Abu-Sayyaf Group (ASG) and has worked and conducted investigations about the ASG since its inception. 

  • PNP Gen. David Ombao (ret.) is a retired Philippine National Police officer with an extensive experience in terrorism prevention in the Philippines and international counterterrorism activity coordination (including with the FBI).

He is a Mindanao native who has spent many years investigating money laundering and terrorist financing activity.

The objective of this course was to sensitize diplomats to the extremists’ interpretation of Islamic history and the events which serve as the basis for their thoughts and actions. 

This course likewise aimed to demonstrate with clarity and demystify the ideological differences between the devout fundamentalists and violent extremists.

The course provided diplomats not only the knowledge to better appreciate the historical and ideological roots of extremist groups but also the analytical tools to help identify potential national security threats to the Philippines.

Photo: GRMF
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. expressed confidence that the training could further enhance the Philippines’s counterterrorism efforts with diplomats knowing what violent extremists know and how they use or misuse Islamic beliefs to justify terrorist acts.
Photo: DFA OPD
Sixty-three (63) participants from selected Foreign Service Posts, DFA Home Office, FSI, and other government intelligence agencies, such as NICA, NSC, PNP, and ISAFP completed the course.

According to FSI Officer-in-Charge Celeste Vinzon-Balatbat, this course can potentially add value to the work of Foreign Service Officers through basic knowledge, skills, and new perspectives that shall enable them to (1) better evaluate visa applications at Post; (2) revisit the Philippines’s visa policy vis-à-vis national security and economic considerations; and (3) become more attuned to political and security developments at Post, add depth to their political reports, and enrich their interaction with host government officials, including those from intelligence agencies.

The course was attended by new Foreign Service Officers and the more experienced officers directly responsible for analyzing political matters, including counterterrorism issues; assessing the impact on the Philippines of political developments abroad, and submitting policy recommendations on political and visa-related issues.

Representatives of other government intelligence and security agencies also participated in the course and thus, in the process, not only enhanced their expertise in counterterrorism but also strengthened the linkages and networking between Filipino diplomats and their intelligence counterparts in the Philippine government.