By Jun Ramirez
Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports of entry have been placed under heightened alert to prevent the entry of terrorists from Turkey.
Commissioner Jaime Morente of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) issued the directive following disclosure by the Turkish ambassador to Manila that members of terror group Fetullah Gullen based in the capital city of Ankara have already established a foothold in the Philippines.
The Islamist transnational religious and social group was tagged as having led the failed attempt to topple the government of Turkish President Recep Erdogan last year.
An immigration official who declined to be named said the bureau maintains a list of foreigners with derogatory records and whose names are placed either in the bureau’s blacklist or watch list.
Turkish Ambassador to the Philippines Esra Cankour declared that Turkish extremists are in the country operating schools and doing civic and social works.
The BI had earlier noted that several foreign nationals with tourist visas had identified Mindanao as their common destination, bolstering suspicion that suspected ISIS-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf sympathizers are coming to the country to support the rebel groups now fighting government military and police forces in Marawi City.
Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said earlier the government will look into the claim of the Turkish envoy.
He said the government will investigate foreign organizations abetting or aiding terrorism and will hold them accountable, especially those who may be working as fronts for terrorists and criminal activities.
Cankour said the group is “active” in the country, using their organizations as their façade to conduct education and charity works.
“We consider Fetullah Gulen as a terrorist organization and any organization or persons linked or affiliated with that group are like sleeping cells,” Cankour said.
However, one of the leaders of the movement, Cihangir Arslan, has denied the ambassador’s accusations.
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