FORT MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija: The Philippine Army 7th Infantry Division (7ID) based here and the provincial police are on heightened alert for possible spread to Luzon of the international terrorists groups believed behind sowing widespread fear in Mindanao.
This developed as the Army was recently sent another 100 soldiers of the 72nd Division Reconnaisance Company to Marawi City along with 300 others earlier deployed there from Central Luzon.
Major General Angelito De Leon, 7ID commanding general, said they are not discounting the possibility that Muslims in Central Luzon might have been infiltrated by their Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) counterparts in the Philippines. However, he assured the public that they are closely monitoring the situation.
De Leon told The Manila Times, in a telephone interview, that “there is no information gathered so far of any terror plans [from alleged ISIS-infiltrated Muslims in Central Luzon]but all our units are directed to intensify intelligence efforts.”
He added that aside from the threat of terrorism, they are also securing vital facilities and ensuring the safety of the communities against possible attacks by the New People’s Army (NPA).
Similarly, Central Luzon (Region 3) police director, Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, has coordinated with the local government units on the strict monitoring of about 50,000 Muslims, most of them engaged in small-scale vending businesses, in their respective areas.
“So far there is no intelligence report about the presence of supposed terror group in the region,” Aquino said.
Mulims in Cabanatuan City also downplayed the rumored ISIS threat, stressing that they adhere to the teachings of Quran especially against taking part in violent acts.
“We will not go to heaven if we let ourselves be used by the terrorists,” said Aklaw Baklao member of the local Muslim groups selling various electronics wares in the public market.
“That’s far from happening. I know that the Muslims in Marawi are victims. They are in the crossfire,” said Aclmaw Coyaw, another Muslim vendor-technician who is from Marawi.
Elvie Diaz, who mans a newstand, expressed her apprehension about the domination by Muslims of the small-scale business in Cabanatuan saying, “in case that [threat of terrorists’ attack]happens, the local Christians will be outnumbered and will be economically displaced.”
Meanwhile, military and civilian officials in Negros Occidental dismissed the information spreading on social media claiming that members of the IS-backed Maute group are planning massive terror attacks on major cities across the country on June 30, calling it a hoax.
The report, allegedly coming from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), said that the terrorists are planning to hijack Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG), fuel and oil tankers to be used as Vehicle-borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED).
Among the alleged targets are vital installations such as police stations or military camps, malls, Christian churches and even mosques.
Maj. Gen. Jon Aying, 3rd ID commander said “since the events in Bohol and Marawi City, we have been encountering a lot of security threats and challenges.”
He advised the public to be vigilant in their communities but remain calm and coordinate closely with the local officials, the police and the military.
He added they also received similar information a few weeks ago saying there was an impending attack during the Independence Day celebrations last June 12.
“I think it is more of a hoax, but we cannot underestimate the possibilities especially with the situation in Marawi City,” he said.
Ma. Lina Sanogal, Negros Occidental provincial planning and development officer, said the information was also taken up but dismissed as prank during the security briefing by Task Force Buglas with Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. on Tuesday.
WITH EUGENE ADIONG