LEADERS of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) have agreed to strengthen collaboration against new forms of transnational crimes in the region, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año said.
These new transnational crimes are illegal drug trafficking and illegal trafficking of wildlife and timber, Año said in a statement.
These are on top of terrorism, trafficking in persons, cybercrime, arms smuggling, money laundering, international economic crime, sea piracy, and sea robbery.
“In moving into the better normal, we, the Asean member states, must strengthen our bonds so as not to give transnational criminals the opportunity to disrupt our efforts in saving lives, recovering from the pandemic, rebuilding our economies, and improving the wellbeing of our people,” Año said during the 20th Asean Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) virtual meeting on Thursday, September 24, 2020. “As both transnational crimes and Covid-19 favor no people, race or social class, all of us must work together to cure the deep and longstanding scars that these problems have left on our hands. Together let us share with the rest of the world the greater cause of putting an end to these worldwide tormentors,” he added.
The meeting was attended by country representatives and Asean Secretariat from Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Bernardo Florece Jr., Asean-SOMTC Philippines leader, said they were beefing up the capacity of the criminal justice system, law enforcement, and intelligence units with relevant regional and international organizations.
In the Philippines, he cited the signing of Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-clip) for the surrendering members of the communist groups, Task Force coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) Kontra Peke, Wildlife Agency and Citizen Law Enforcement Reporting Tool or WildALERT and Integrated Case Management System, among others.
Año called for the signing of treaties among the member states in areas of criminal justice, mutual legal assistance and extradition to ensure that transnational organized crime groups cannot capitalize on the pandemic to advance their criminal interests.
He also urged the member countries to build a robust and open communications network and feedback mechanism in order for the involved nations to freely interact and share relevant information with each other.
Florece said transnational criminals may take advantage of the threat caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Año also noted the growing crimes emerging out of the Covid-19 pandemic especially online.
“Kung dati personal ang kalakaran sa mga trafficking in persons, ngayon ay online na din dahil sa pandemya. Kaya kinakailangan ang mas pinaigtig na pagtutulungan ng ating mga karatig-bansa para tuluyan nating masugpo ang napakalaking problema na ito,” he said in a statement.
He warned netizens to be more cautious in sharing personal information as these can be used by the criminal groups to do cyber scams, fraud, disinformation, and other cyber-enabled crimes. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)