Defense and military officials on Thursday warned that “media-hungry” terrorists might take advantage of the Holy Week to launch a possible attack on vacation spots or religious places even as they have laid out a security plan to thwart any plot.
“We are ready for the Holy Week. Our contingency plans will be put into play on Monday,” said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who presided over the conference of the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Council (JPSCC) at Camp Aguinaldo.
Brigadier General Roberto Almadin, co-chairman of the JPSCC, said the council’s initial assessment indicated a need to monitor places where crowds often gather during the Lenten season, especially churches and cathedrals, “other places of religious interest” and tourist spots.
“These may be taken advantage of by terrorists to conduct attacks, sow chaos and disorder and gain media mileage,” he said in the briefing, identifying airports, seaports, public transports and vital installations as other possible targets.
In an ambush interview, Almadin said terrorists may launch an attack during the Lenten season, citing the recent terror scare in Thailand following the arrests in January of alleged Iranian bombers.
“It is an opportunity for them so we are not discounting that possibility. Terrorists are media-hungry,” he told reporters.
Asked if they had any group in mind, he said there is no hard evidence to point to anyone in particular although they are prepared for a counter-attack.
On March 6, all unified commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were directed to coordinate with the Philippine National Police, the Coast Guard, the Department of Transportation and Communication and other concerned government agencies in laying out the security plan.
“The implementation of the security cooperation and collaboration efforts with the PNP will be done through the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Centers in the regions, provinces and independent cities,” Almadin said.
In Metro Manila, on the other hand, the AFP’s National Capital Region Command will be in close touch with the PNP’s National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Coast Guard and other law enforcement agencies.
Almadin said the NCR Command would provide security to the NCRPO in conducting visibility patrols, “especially in the Cubao-Edsa area,” as well as deploy K-9 teams, bomb squads and medical teams to assist the MMDA.
“Security operations of the Task Force Sea Marshal will be integrated in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard to ensure the security of commercial sea vessels plying in and out of Metro Manila,” he added.