DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Friday the terrorist Maute group and the separatist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) could be behind the bombings in Hilongos town in Leyte and North Cotabato late Wednesday that injured 43 people.
The Defense chief said the two groups in the south may have formed a tactical alliance and carried out the blasts as “diversionary tactics.”
“Because the Maute group in Lanao and Cotabato are being pinned by military operations, they are employing diversionary tactics to distract the military and ease the pressure. That’s the way we look at it,” he said in Filipino.
The tactical alliance, Lorenzana said, should be a cause the concern because “these people can create trouble anywhere in the Philippines.”
He pointed out that while the government was not preventing people from traveling, the public should be very cautious, vigilant and observant of what is happening around them.
To prevent a possible spillover of terrorism particularly in Metro Manila, Lorenzana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) have tightened security in crowded places.
“Especially now that people are celebrating New Year, the police and the military have tightened security,” he said.
The AFP chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Año, said investigators were also looking into the involvement of criminal syndicates in the bombing.
“Let us wait for the [result of]the investigation. But we will assure the public that we will do our best para huwag maulit `yung ganito, at saka [so as to prevent the recurrence of this incident, and]we will bring those perpetrators to justice,” he said.
The military has so far not monitored any threat to Metro Manila, but security measures have been put in place just the same, the AFP chief said.
The AFP and the PNP are also preparing for the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene in January, Año said.
At least 36 people were reported injured following a bomb blast at a public square in Hilongos, Leyte where an amateur boxing match was going on. Police said an 81-mm mortar rigged to a timer exploded in the plaza at 9:20 p.m. on Wednesday.
In North Cotabato’s Aleosan town, seven people were wounded in a road explosion on the highway near the village of Pagangan Dos. The bomb exploded as a truck was passing the area.
The blast occurred days after an unidentified man lobbed a fragmentation grenade outside a Catholic church in Midsayap town, also in North Cotabato, that injured over a dozen people.