MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang said on Thursday the government is verifying claims by the Turkish ambassador that a supposed terror group from her country is in the Philippines.
“The military is verifying the statement of Turkish Ambassador Esra Cankorur regarding the presence of Turkish terrorists, particularly the “Fethullah Gulen Movement,” in the Philippines,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
“We will investigate organizations abetting or aiding terrorism and will hold them accountable, especially those that may be working as fronts for terrorist and criminal activities, as alleged by the ambassador,” he said.
“We are also working closely with all other nations to combat terrorism. This is now a global threat that can be better addressed through a unified effort,” he added.
Earlier, Cankorur said that the Fethullah Gulen Movement is “active” here through a school in Zamboanga that was opened in 1997, and two other schools in Manila.
The movement’s formal name is actually “Hizmet,” Turkish for “service.”
Gulen is its founder. He is a religious leader and political figure self-exiled in the United States since 1999 who has been accused by Turkey of instigating last year’s coup attempt against President Tayyip Erdogan.
A Reuters profile of him said Hizmet has “set up hundreds of schools and businesses in Turkey and later abroad, with an initial focus on post-Soviet Turkic-language-speaking Central Asia” and Gulen’s “philosophy stresses the need to embrace scientific progress, shun radicalism and build bridges to the West and other religious faiths.”
In a televised interview, the Turkish ambassador claimed “the movement also has foundations on the cultural side.”
“This is their facade, thinking them as civic education institutions and innocent charity organizations. That will be a huge mischaracterization; that is wrong. They are the facade. They talk about inter-faith dialogue, but they are concealing themselves,” she said.
She called the group’s presence in the Philippines “a bad thing” because it is a “terrorist group.”
“We consider Fethullah Gulen as a terrorist organization and any organization or persons linked or affiliated to that group is like sleeping cells,” she said.