Davao City police chief on alleged terror threat: no ISIS-affiliated group here

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 July) – The hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte is reportedly facing threats from a global terrorist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to his son, acting Mayor Paolo Duterte, but the Davao City Police Office maintained there is no ISIS-affiliated group in the region or Mindanao.

Newly-minted DCPO director Michael John Dubria told a press conference on Thursday that there are no reports from the intelligence community pertaining to the presence of any ISIS-recognized group here.

“(You) remain calm but stay vigilant, there is no truth to the information that there is ISIS group, but it doesn’t mean that we do not have threats directed towards our city,” he said.

Acting Davao City Mayor Paolo Duterte on Thursday told reporters that the city is facing threats from ISIS, that he has ordered the police and military to beef up security and intensify intelligence gathering to avert possible attacks from the international terror group.

He said he already has some information about the whereabouts of the group but refused to give details.

“We are intensifying the gathering of information. We cannot disclose details or confirm anything as of yet,” the acting mayor said.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon told MindaNews “we will look into this.”

“We will treat this as raw info but will exert big effort in verifying,” Esperon added.

Dubria said he was told by the acting mayor that a person told him of the threat but it remains to be validated and it did not specifically state Davao as the subject of the attack.

“Sinabi nya sa akin there was a person who informed him but it remains to be validated but he said to me that it did not state that the threat is in Davao City. Davao City has remained safe. Why can I say that? The police are spread out. I have directed station commanders to intensify checkpoint operations and to maximize the deployment of their personnel and so to try to gather as much information from informants and intelligence networks so that Davao City will stay safe and secure as it is,” he said.

The Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) echoed the police’s statement.

“Yun ang sabi ni Vice Mayor Duterte but this has to be validated, yan ang ginagawa namin ngayon with other security agencies dito sa area ng EastMinCom pati na rin yung WestMinCom. On our part continuous ang monitoring and naka-alert kami, so far wala pa naman but again yung threat naman always nandyan yan kaya ang ating mga units on alert and on our toes,” said Maj. Ezra Balagtey, EastMinCom spokesperson.

He said that they will do all they can to protect the city, this being the “Exhibit A” of the President in his campaign against drugs and criminality.

The Davao City Information Office posted an “additional quote” from Duterte on its Facebook chat group at 3:38 p.m., hours after the interview, that “whether the information is real or not, whether there is an actual threat from ISIS or none, what is important is that the people are now informed. And because of that, all of us are vigilant now. The public and all concerned agencies have been alerted and are doing everything to avert the threat from ISIS. Kailangan nating magbantay. I repeat, we are still verifying this information.”

Dubria acknowledged though that there are “ISIS-like” armed groups and terrorist groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operating in Mindanao who are trying to sow fear among the people in order to get the support of the ISIS.

“Per intelligence exchange with our units and operatives, there is no ISIS group in PRO 11 area of responsibility… or in Mindanao. These groups like the BIFF are terrorist groups and they are trying to get the support of the ISIS, so we call them ISIS-inspired, but we don’t call them ISIS. I do not believe that we have ISIS-inspired groups in Region 11, it is possible in other places in Mindanao,” he said.

Dubria acknowledged that there are other threats the city is facing, not only against the President who prefers to spend a few days in the city before returning to his official residence in Malacañang at the National Capital Region, but also from lawless armed groups.

“Other regions are experiencing threats from lawless armed group. Davao Region is different because we not only experienced threats from lawless armed group but also from BIFF, ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group)… most especially now that the police have stepped up their campaign against illegal drugs, so it is also possible that drug lords and personalities involved in drugs and those whose businesses were affected in our intensified campaign against illegal drugs na they plan to retaliate.”