The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) on Saturday placed all police units on full-alert status after an explosion in Davao City before midnight on Friday killed at least 14 and wounded dozens.
All five police districts in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) were ordered to set up checkpoints where deemed necessary and maximize security and presence in all vital government installations, malls, churches and transportation terminals, among other places of convergence.
“This is to step up security in the region in the aftermath of the explosion in Davao City,” Chief Inspector Kimberly Molitas, NCRPO chief information officer, told reporters via Viber group chat.
Initial reports said the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) immediately deployed the District Public Safety Battalion to put up a checkpoint along Tandang Sora to Culiat.
An Explosive Ordinance Disposal team was ordered to conduct a “spot check” at the Araneta Center in Cubao, while the Strategic Response Unit conducted “Oplan Sita” operations at Litex Road in Barangay Commonwealth.
In Manila, members of a Special Weapons and Tactics team were deployed to Light Rail Transit stations and in crowded Divisoria market.
“Help us also make the public understand that we are stepping up security measures for everyone’s safety. All community activities remain normal. We will not allow lawless elements to derail our path toward peace. It will still be a weekend for families,” Molitas said.
According to Commander Armand Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesman, major ports nationwide are also on heightened alert.
“[Security personnel] directed to implement security measures in major ports nationwide. This includes the Coast Guard Anti-Terrorism unit, K9 and Law Enforcement teams. We also directed all PCG stations to conduct harbor patrol to secure the perimeter of ports and that nobody can go near passenger vessels coming from the sea,” Balilo said in a text message.
In a news briefing on Saturday, QCPD chief Senior Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said the full-alert status was in keeping with an order of President Rodrigo Duterte and NCRPO Chief Supt. Oscar Albayalde to tighten security.
“This is not a declaration of martial law but [the situation calls]for strict implementation of the laws and for us, the law enforcement agencies, we will be on our highest alert in order to ensure peace and order,” Eleazar added.
“This [tightened security]will bring the message to the public that the police are there to protect them form lawless elements,” he said.
Eleazar added that the QCPD will start conducting random lockdown over 110 exit and entry points in the city.
Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said they will continue “to take orders from the Commander-in-Chief. At this time, strict measures are being implemented to avoid the repeat of the same incident.”
“We encourage people to report any suspicious activities no matter how insignificant they may seem. We advise people across the nation to be vigilant and stay away from crowded places in the meantime,” he added.
Lawmakers condemned the Davao City bombing.
House Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano said, “I strongly condemn this latest act of terrorism, claimed to have been perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf Group, in Davao City. There is no justification for the killing and harming of unarmed civilians — children, women and men — regardless of one’s cause or ideology. I join our nation in calling for justice and offering prayers and support to our [fellow Filipinos]in Davao, especially those who have lost their loved ones.”
“As a member of Congress, I reaffirm my full support for President Rodrigo Duterte and his efforts to seek justice and achieve peace and order in Mindanao and the rest of the country. I appeal to my fellow lawmakers and our people to stand firm with our government and our security forces, and the steps that have to be taken to hunt down and bring the terrorists to justice, and to defeat the enemies of peace, unity and development,” she added.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Sarah Elago called for an investigation of the incident,
“We also call on the Duterte administration to abide by the legal parameters and limitations on the declaration of the ‘state of lawlessness’ The pursuit of justice and security should not pave the way for the trampling of the people’s fundamental human rights. In particular, this incident must not result in another witchhunt against our innocent civilian Moro brothers and sisters,” Elago said in a statement.
“The bombing should not also be used as cannon fodder to justify the eventual declaration of martial law or further expansion of lopsided pacts such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in the guise of anti-terrorism,” the lawmaker added.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Cibac party-list group said he trusts that the President and the country’s law enforcers will make the attackers account for their crime.
He, however, called on the people to remain calm in order not to exacerbate the situation.
Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin, meanwhile, questioned Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness, noting that what the country needs is effective police and military intelligence work against the Abu Sayyaf Group.
In Manila, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada also on Saturday ordered the Manila Police District (MPD) force to go on heightened alert and secure all vital installations, malls, and terminals, including Malacanang Palace, the government’s seat of power.
“Here in Manila, we have doubled our security and contingency measures to protect the safety of our constituents,” Estrada said as he directed MPD Director Joel Coronel to tighten security around the country’s capital city.
He urged residents to remain calm but vigilant at all times, asking them to report to authorities any suspicious individuals or movements in their neighborhood.
Estrada expressed sympathy to the families of the victims of the Davao City bombing,
“Terrorism is a terrible thing, a great threat to civilization. It saddens me that innocent lives are taken by these lawless, Godless terrorists. Nothing, nothing ever justifies terrorism,” according the mayor.
Estrada said the Davao bombing reminded him of the Rizal Day bombings in December 30, 2000, where five bombs were simultaneously set off around Metro Manila, two of which went off at Plaza Ferguson in Malate district, Manila and inside an LRT 1 coach at Blumentritt station in Santa Cruz district.
At least 22 people were killed that day.
Estrada was then the President when the terrorist attacks were carried out by suspected Muslim extremists.
The bombings came nine months after he declared an all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who had attacked Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte and Cagayan de Oro City where 36 civilians died.