MILITARY officials expressed fears that terroristsoperating in Marawi City, in a daring move, could move to Manila.
The possibility of a spill over has prompted authorities to deploy of a 25-man Philippine Army contingent in areas near the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila.
Major Jeoffret Braganza admitted that this fear is the main reason why his group was directed to stay in Quiapo, particularly in two barangays, for three months mainly to profile the people living there and prevent the entry of any terrorist.
“Imagine if extremists will take hold of Quiapo, it will be a disaster,” Braganza told reporters when he visited them at the Manila Police District Press Corps office on Friday.
Braganza is the commanding officer of the 11th Civil-Military Operations Company Regiment, Philippine Army based in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The deployment started on July 20 with two teams making rounds 24 hours daily.
“The Quiapo area is under strict surveillance, particularly Barangays 383 and 384. We cannot be caught with our pants down,” Braganza said, adding that they make sure no “foreign” individual would be able to infiltrate the place.
Braganza said it is not easy to win the trust of barangay residents and their leaders from the barangay chairmen to village councilors.
As part of efforts to establish rapport with people in the area, the contingent is launched “Community Support Program,” or activities consisting of medical and dental missions, feeding, haircut, youth leadership summit, educational tours, and operation clean-up, among others.
Meanwhile, a total of 265 school children from Marawi City have moved to Manila and many of them are now staying with their relatives in Quiapo area, including Barangays 383 and 384.
Concerned about their situation, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada instructed Wilfredo Cabral, head of the Division of City Schools, to conduct therapy and trauma treatment sessions for transferees from Marawi City.
“As long as we can, we will continue helping these children and their families gravely affected by the war in Marawi. They need all the help they can get, especially those innocent children,” Estrada said in a statement.
Many of the Marawi school children were transferred to the Geronimo Santiago Elementary School in Quiapo and Ramon Avanceña High School last July 13.
Cabral said they will include in their debriefing parents and relatives of the school children.
“This is a psychological first aid for the children. We will give them counseling, together with their parents, and we will assess their psychological and emotional well-being,” he added.
The Marawi siege started last May 22. Some 389,300 residents left the city and about 70,380 are housed in 79 government-run evacuation centers, while the rest have sought shelter with their relatives in nearby provinces or fled to Metro Manila.