THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is on “heightened alert,” but maintained it was not in response to a terror threat in Metro Manila.
The alert was raised on Thursday, the same day the US Embassy in Manila issued a travel advisory warning its citizens of a possible terror attack by militant groups in the metropolis.
The PNP’s chief information officer, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, said in a press briefing in Camp Crame on Friday the heightened alert “is part of protocol whenever the President leaves the country.”
President Benigno Aquino 3rd left for Bali, Indonesia on Thursday for a two-day forum on democracy.
The US travel advisory, Mayor said, “is a procedural action of a foreign government to protect their own citizen. We also do the same.”
The US issued the advisory following the reported arrest of three men, one of whom is believed to be a member of the Rajah Solaiman Group (RSM).
Mayor confirmed the arrest of Ricardo Ayeras, alias Abdul Karim Ayeras, Andrecio Valdez Manuel and Ricky Macapagal in Quezon City last October 5.
“They were arrested for simple violation of the law,” Mayor said.
He said the PNP has not monitored any terrorist plot to plant bombs in Metro Manila, but it does not discount that such threats exist.
Mayor said the police was still checking alleged bomb threats on two schools, one in Quezon City and the other in Manila.
A source in the police intelligence community said Ayeras is a member of the RSM, a group that has ties with the Khilafa Islamiya Movement (KIM), which has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tried to douse apprehensions over the US advisory, has assured that foreigners are safe in Metro Manila.
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Friday said they were in close coordination with the US Embassy as military intelligence units continue to verify reports on the alleged terror plot.
“Maybe the US has other sources. We will ask the US where they got the information, we will check. But right now we’re still verifying, and follow-up operations are ongoing,” Catapang said.
The Department of National Defense (DnD) meanwhile is taking seriously the alleged terrorist plot to bomb Metro Manila, despite the lack of hard evidence.
“We are currently evaluating all our information and there are no indications at this time that the foiled bomb plot is part of a greater scenario. We are treating every report with the utmost seriousness, nonetheless,” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.
WITH A REPORT FROM WILLIAM DEPASUPIL