DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 29 June) — Local Governments Secretary Mar Roxas on Sunday met with Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and police officials to discuss security measures undertaken against reported terror threats targeting the city and key areas in Mindanao.
At a press briefing Sunday night at the Marco Polo Davao, Roxas said the security contingent against terrorism should go down to the community level with the use of additional barangay peace keeping action teams (BPAT).
He cited the addition of five more tanods per barangay in all of the city’s 182 barangays.
Roxas added that the additional barangay volunteers would ensure that a more local intelligence network is created so that crime incidents would be prevented.
“Your own residents would be the ones to know if there are suspicious people in your barangays,” he said.
Roxas said police visibility has also been increased, with around 1,400 police and 350 Task Force Davao personnel roving the city.
“We’re doing everything that is humanly possible,” Duterte said.
Duterte and Roxas did not name the organization behind the alleged terror threats.
Duterte ranked the threat to be a “3” on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 as the highest but added that the city’s response to threats always corresponds to a “10.”
President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday phoned Duterte about intelligence reports on terrorist threats targeting his city and the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Koronadal and Kidapawan.
Duterte said Aquino told him not to treat the threat lightly. He immediately convened a meeting with the security sector in the city.
Immediately, orders were made disallowing military o police or any civilian to carry firearms into the city. “They should leave these at the checkpoints,” Duterte said, adding only police and military personnel assigned in the city are allowed to carry firearms.
The alert level comes one month before the annual Kadayawan Festival.
Duterte said it has always been the practice of the city to raise its alert levels and that Dabawenyos have been trained to cooperate with security measures such as checkpoints, the prohibition of backpacks in public areas, as well as the presence of CCTVs in major areas in the city.
President Aquino’s call to Duterte came on the same day media reported that the United States was disbanding its anti-terror contingent in Mindanao – the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, or JSOTF-P, which was set up over a decade ago to fight Al Qaeda-linked groups such as the Abu Sayyaf following the September 11, 2001 attack in the United States.
An Associated Press (AP) report datelined Manila on Thursday quoted US Embassy Press Attache Kurt Hoyer as saying that the United States’ partnership with Philippine security forces “has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines” and that the remaining terrorists “have largely devolved into disorganized groups resorting to criminal undertakings to sustain their activities.”
Hoyer said US military planners in coordination with their Philippine counterparts are working on a “transition plan where the JSOTF-P as a task force will no longer exist.”
Hoyer said there were currently about 320 American military personnel left in the south.
The AP report also quoted Hoyer as saying a still unspecified number of US military personnel from the Pacific Command would remain under a new unit called the PACOM Augmentation Team to provide Filipino forces with counter-terrorism and combat training and advice, and “ensure that violent extremist organizations don’t regain a foothold in (Mindanao).”
The US and the Philippines in April signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that would allow US forces temporary access to selected Filipino military camps and enable them to preposition fighter jets and ships.
Former Senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada who voted against the treaty extending the stay of US military bases in the country in 1991, had petitioned the Supreme Court questioning EDCA, arguing that such an agreement required the concurrence of the Senate. (MindaNews)