The Manila Police District Office (MPDO) on Monday stepped up security measures against what it described as possible “bombings” targeting government, private, business and religious edifices and establishments.
In a memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, dated November 10, 2014, Malate Police Station commander and Supt. Romeo Mendoza Odrada reported to acting MPDO Director Rolando Nana that “preemptive and hardening measures” against the “bombings” had been implemented.
The memorandum, however, did not identify who the supposed bombers would be.
“In line with the directives of higher headquarters regarding [p]olice visibility within our AOR [Areas of Responsibility] elements of this station conducted aggressive patrol/inspection particularly vital installations such as [Meralco], [p]ower unit, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, [h]otel/motels such as Ambassador Hotel, Orchid Garden Hotel, Aloha Hotel, Victoria Court, Mercury Drug [S]tores, malls, schools, universities, gasoline stations, markets and churches,” it read.
Meralco is the Manila Electric Co. and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is the Central Bank of the Philippines.
Also, according to the memorandum, “[t]he elements of this [s]tation’s anti-crime conducted clearing operations of ambulant vendors and pedicab drivers at the vicinity of Ospital ng Maynila and Baywalk.”
Baywalk is a stretch of Roxas Boulevard in Manila facing Manila Bay.
The Odrada memorandum apparently was reacting to reports on twin bombings in Zamboanga City in Mindanao on Sunday evening that left a member of a police anti-bomb squad wounded.
The attacks, according to Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), could be a diversionary tactic of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to distract ongoing intensified military operations against the bandits in Sulu and Basilan, also in Mindanao.
“We are looking into that [ASG angle]. Hindi ko pa masabi kung yun na ba yun [I still cannot say if the group was behind the bombings],” Catapang said in a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo, the AFP’s General Headquarters, in Quezon City (Metro Manila) also on Monday.
He added that he was planning to go back to Zamboanga City to allay fears of the people there about the apparently uneasy peace in the city.
Also on Monday, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayo, the Philippine National Police spokesman, told The Manila Times that they have not monitored any specific threat against Pope Francis when he visits the country early next year.
A number of foreign governments earlier warned that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had issued a threat against the pope that it will carry out in one of Francis’ foreign travels.
Basilan Bishop Martin Jumuad said the government should not take the ISIS’ threat lightly.
The Pope will arrive on January 15 and will stay for five days.
While his schedule has not been disclosed, he is expected to spend time with survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City, Leyte.
WITH REPORTS FROM FERNAN MARASIGAN AND ANTHONY VARGAS