DAVAO CITY: Despite the admission of President Benigno Aquino 3rd that the information on a supposed plan by a terror group to attack Davao City was raw and unverified, authorities continue to take the threat seriously.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, when asked to comment on Aquino’s comment, said he values prudence, apparently to explain the response of the city government, along with the security forces, to the threat.
“I would rather err on the side of prudence,” Duterte said in a text message to The Manila Times. “There’s nothing wrong with being prepared.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, Duterte has earlier said the supposed threat to Davao is at 3 but stressed that the response is full-scale. He said government forces will tighten security—just like when Martial Law is in place—but “humanly possible”.
Lawyer Jesus Dureza, who served as cabinet member during the time of President Fidel Ramos and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has expressed apprehension over the handling of the information.
Dureza, who headed the government peace panel talking peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during Arroyo’s time, questioned how Aquino broke the supposed terror plot, which was followed by a meeting between Duterte and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, to the Davao City mayor.
“With all due respect to the President and to Secretary Mar Roxas, the way this was handled has resulted in panic,” Dureza said. “Even before an actual terrorism happened, the residents of Davao City, and the rest of Mindanao, have already been terrorized.”
His experience, Dureza said, showed that handling real or unreal cases of terrorism, are best handled away from the eyes of the public.
“It’s not that I am already enamored with violence—but this big hoopla about possible terror attacks in Davao City smells like a rotten, stale fish [more than fishy]to me,” he said. “First the big news about no less than the President himself making that now famous phone call to Mayor Duterte. Then sending to Davao City no less the highest police official, DILG Sec. Mar Roxas to preside over a highly publicized briefing. I learned from my long experience in Mindanao that real (or unreal) security threats were not handled this way. It was all discreetly done in whispers and behind closed doors in security briefings. I don’t know why the shift in tactics.”
In North Cotabato, Governor Emmylou Mendoza has appealed for the public’s cooperation as her province has been identified as one of the supposed terror targets.
“Peace and order are everybody’s business, not just our police, military and barangay tanod,” Mendoza said.
“People in the barangays must work closely with their barangay officials. We cannot say we are not involved or will never be. This attitude will not help at all for life is precious. Unfortunately, there some people who don’t care about life anymore. We can only offer our prayers for them to get enlightenment and start living peacefully and responsively.”
Meanwhile, the Eastern Mindanao Command, said Davao City continues to be under heightened alert.
“The security plan is in place,” said Capt. Alberto Caber, the spokesperson of Eastern Min–danao Command. “We do not want for the public to panic, but if we are talking about security and terrorism, we always call for the cooperation of the public. Davao City continues to be normal, and the people are relaxed, but we all need to be vigilant.”
Caber said the government’s intelligence network continues to assess the situation and verify information, including the group that is supposedly behind the terror plot.
Aquino said a group with links to Abu Sayyaf intends to send a car laden with bomb to Davao City, in retaliation to the arrest made recently to Abu Sayyaf leader Khair Mundos.