Countering Violent Extremism in the Philippines

A Snapshot of Current Challenges and Responses

by Ashley L. Rhoades, Todd C. Helmus

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In this report, RAND researchers provide a current threat picture (including active terrorist groups and drivers of radicalization) to serve as a reference for those seeking to design programs or policies to counter violent extremism in the Philippines. The authors also aim to raise awareness of recent and ongoing programs in the countering violent extremism (CVE) space to inform the design and execution of future programs.

Researchers conducted a review of open-source literature for this report. Given this reliance on the literature, rather than original research or fieldwork, this report should be understood as an overview of existing challenges and responses, not as an exhaustive examination of all CVE-related programming in the Philippines.

Key Findings

The threat of terrorism in the Philippines is ever-present

  • The threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the Philippines is severe and persistent in some areas of the country, as current conditions—such as extreme poverty in areas of the Philippines, divisions between Catholic and Muslim culture and communities, grievances with the government, and recurring conflict—create a ripe environment for violent ideology to take root.
  • Current CVE programming is insufficient to mitigate the threat.

Government-led CVE responses have been too much—and not enough

  • Government responses, particularly under President Rodrigo Duterte, have been too heavy-handed, risking further radicalization among frustrated and desperate individuals.
  • Beyond kinetic counterterrorism efforts, government programming in the CVE space also has suffered from a perceived lack of credibility, limited judicial capacity, and poor coordination.

Nongovernmental CVE programming needs better evaluation

  • Although some nongovernmental CVE programming in the Philippines has proven successful, these programs are often microcampaigns without a wide-scale effect.
  • Existing programming lacks systematic, rigorous evaluation, making it difficult to measure progress, effects, and areas that need improvement.
  • Future CVE programmers should make a concerted effort to monitor and evaluate programs during implementation.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Nature and Magnitude of the Threat

  • Chapter Two

    Drivers of Radicalization

  • Chapter Three

    Countering Violent Extremism Programs and Initiatives

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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