Brig. Gen. Roberto Almadin, co-chair of the Armed Forces-Philippine National Police Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council, made this assurance as he noted that terrorist groups may take advantage of the Holy Week to launch an attack.
“Per our initial assessment, the associated gatherings of people in churches, cathedrals, and places of religious interests and tourist spots may be taken advantage of by terror groups to conduct attacks to sow chaos, disorder, and gain media mileage,” he said.
Almadin made the pronouncement while briefing National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chairman and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on the military’s security preparation for the Holy Week.
No imminent plan
Almadin, however, said they have not monitored any imminent plan by the terrorists to launch an attack during what is considered as the holiest week among Catholics.
“Our assessment are always driven by data collected, past experiences. Logically, we have to be prepared. We are not saying these [attacks] will happen, but at least when something happens, our level of preparedness is high compared to when you are not expecting it,” he said.
In 2005, military intelligence personnel thwarted a bombing plan by the Rajah Solaiman Movement — a group of Islamic converts — during the Holy Week. The group was reportedly targeting to a nightspot and church in the Malate district in Manila.
Told that there was no instance of an actual terrorist attack during the Holy Week, Almadin said: “None yet, but as they say, there will always be the first.”
“Most critical areas”
He said the deployment will be mostly in religious places in Sulu and Basilan provinces in Mindanao, which he described as “most critical areas.” Both are known stomping ground of the notorious al Qaeda-linked bandit group Abu Sayyaf.
Almadin, in a later interview, said they are looking into the Abu Sayyaf as among the groups that may stage attacks during the Holy Week.
“That’s an assessment,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for them so we are not discounting that possibility, because they are media-hungry.”
Almadin said the other possible targets of the terrorists include airports, seaports, public transports and other vital installations.
The military leadership has already directed all unified commands to coordinate with the PNP, the Coast Guard and other concerned agencies to ensure the security of these potential targets of possible terrorist attacks.
In Metro Manila, Almadin said the National Capital Region Command has augmented the National Capital Region Police Office in the conduct of visibility patrols, especially in the Cubao-EDSA area where many bus terminals — normally crowded during the Holy Week as many Filipinos travel to the provinces — are situated. — KBK, GMA News