THE spate of bombings in Mindanao could be a prelude to much bigger attacks on major cities including Metro Manila, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile warned on Wednesday.
Enrile said the separate bombing incidents in Mindanao can’t be considered as an “isolated incident” thus security officials should determine if the bombings are only confined in Mindanao or if they can spread to other cities.
He said that if the explosions were the work of a terrorist group, there is a huge possibility that Metro Manila would be the next target.
“I always look at the problem in a very broad way. It’s a question of national security. If there’s shooting in Mindanao, what is its implication to Metro Manila? Immediately that’s the question,” Enrile said.
Asked if it is possible that the bombings is a prelude to a bigger bomb blast possibly in urban centers like Cebu or Manila, Enrile said, “I will always assume that if I were in the Cabinet.”
At a hearing on the bombings called by the Senate Committee on Public Order on Wednesday, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima maintained that there has been no indication of a possible spillover of attacks to Metro Manila.
Sources of The Manila Times had claimed that young recruits of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have been ordered to carry out “test missions” in Metro Manila which involves bombing of various targets.
These young recruits were trained on bomb making by members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Purisima said they are not ruling out a spillover of bombings, but at present there are no indications that such attacks are imminent.
He admitted receiving reports about a bombing plot in Mindanao before the July 26 blast in Cagayan de Oro City.
“But this is a very general information, it comes on a daily basis and no specifics,” Purisima told the senators.
He said he immediately ordered his men to conduct “target hardening” which includes increased police presence and checkpoints.
Sen. Grace Poe, committee chairman, said she received information that bomb components are sold openly in some markets in Mindanao.
“I don’t want to pinpoint a particular area mentioned to me by the victim but apparently from this area it is transported to CDO and to other places,” Poe said.
Purisima confirmed that there was indeed such a place in Jolo but policemen have closed it down.
Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) remains clueless on the motive as well as the identity of the group behind the Cagayan de Oro attack.
DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas said police charged Usman Hapids as a suspect in the bombing. Hapids is still at large.
“Until there is more definitive information and credible information, it would be irresponsible for us to say that it is likely to be this, likely to be that,” Roxas said.
Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, who was also at the hearing, said the city government has offered a P2-million reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators.
The bombings in Mindanao has not deterred President Benigno Aquino 3rd from flying to Davao City today.
The President is the guest of honor and keynote speaker at the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference.
”I have not received any word on anything,” Lacierda said. ”The President’s meeting tomorrow with the Davao businessmen will push through.”
”The situation in Davao will be tackled in his meeting with the business people there in Mindanao,” he added.
Lacierda said Aquino gets security updates from the police, military and Defense department.
“The Cagayan blast is in the process of being investigated right now. This morning’s bombing in Midsayap and also in Shariff Aguak will also be investigated. We’re asking for updates from PNP and AFP,” he said.
”We have intensified intelligence gathering . . . We also assure the public that we are looking into the situation. We would like to assure the public that government will intensify all its efforts to identify the perpetrators,” Lacierda said.
Presidential Security Group (PSG) chief Colonel Ramon Dizon said they will take extra precautions in securing the President in Davao.