PH steps up security measures
MANILA, Philippines—Philippine authorities are stepping up security measures, with President Aquino saying the country and all other nations “should remain vigilant” in the fight against terrorism despite the death of Osama bin Laden.
“The Philippine National Police has increased its security patrols over the diplomatic areas and we are making sure that the areas of convergence are all protected and enhanced. There is a hardening of target areas,” the President’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said yesterday.
Among the diplomatic areas where police visibility has been increased is the US embassy in Manila.
Officials have also beefed up security at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“Because of this unprecedented event, we are making sure that all our security steps are in place,” Lacierda said.
Mr. Aquino said the al-Qaida leader’s death “marks a signal defeat for the forces of extremism and terrorism.”
“Let us not forget that this is not just an achievement for the United States. It has brought justice to over a dozen Filipinos who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center,” the President said in a statement read by Lacierda.
Saying the death of Bin Laden “should not lull us into complacency,” Mr. Aquino said the “world must continue to consistently and courageously raise its collective voice against religious hatred, political intolerance, and terrorism of all kinds.”
The Philippines joined the US-led coalition against terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. US forces have been sent to Mindanao to help Filipino soldiers fight the Abu Sayyaf, an extremist group linked to al-Qaida.
Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said Bin Laden’s death underscored the benefits of cooperation between nations in combating terror.
A Catholic bishop deemed the death of Bin Laden a significant development in curbing terrorism in the world, while another bishop advised the government to be on guard for possible retaliatory attacks by his supporters in the country.
“Although [his death] is a [form] of violence and no act of violence can be justified … it’s a big deal to curb violence,” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines public affairs committee.
Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez considered Bin Laden’s killing a double-edged sword. The prelate said it was “good” that the world has one less terrorist to deal with.
“But it is bad because his loyalists will retaliate not only against soldiers and policemen but also against innocent civilians,” said Gutierrez.
But Bin Laden’s death will dampen the “enthusiasm” and cut off funding for extremist groups all over the world, including the Abu Sayyaf, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
“They will lose a source of funding since Libya is in trouble also. So the death of the spiritual head of al-Qaida, unless they can develop another one, will slow down the rising tide of that movement,” he told reporters.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former chief of the Armed Forces, said the government should not let its guard down as al-Qaida’s affiliate organizations were still around.
“There are still the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Jemaah Islamiyah. The death of Bin Laden did not completely erase terrorism because the cause is still there, whether it’s jihad or fundamentalism,” he said.
Enrile doubted the Abu Sayyaf’s capability to mount retaliatory attacks in the country.
“They do not have the capability. I would not worry about. So far, they’re only good all the way to Basilan,” he said.
Retired police chief superintendent Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza said Bin Laden’s death signaled a “sweet victory” for the global counterterrorism campaign but warned of reprisals.
Instead of being demoralized, the Abu Sayyaf and other allied extremist groups might activate their terrorist plans because it was in their nature to avenge the death of their leaders, said Mendoza, now president of Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) belittled the capability of the Abu Sayyaf to stage retaliatory attacks.
“The AFP is optimistic that Osama’s death would lead to the eventual demise of the link of the local terrorist group with the [regional] Jemaah Islamiyah, which has links with Bin Laden’s al-Qaida. Your AFP would remain alert and vigilant amid this very significant development,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. said in a statement.
Loss of inspiration
A military spokesperson said the death of al-Qaida’s leader represented a loss of inspiration to Islamic extremist groups.
Commodore Miguel Rodriguez said the Abu Sayyaf used to get funding and training support from Bin Laden’s group before the Abu Sayyaf linked up with Jemaah Islamiyah.
“(Osama) gives them inspiration that as long as he is alive the terrorist movement is not defeated. But the financial support from al-Qaida to the Jemaah Islamiyah has trickled down to almost zero. That’s why terrorist groups in the country have lost motivation because they have no funds and no public support,” Rodriguez told reporters at a briefing.
Easier to defeat
Rodriguez said the Abu Sayyaf would be easier to defeat with Bin Laden’s death.
Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said Bin Laden’s death would affect his followers’ morale.
But at the same time, the al-Qaida founder’s followers will see him as a martyr, he said.
Lacierda said at a news briefing that “all relevant precautions and steps” to ensure the nation’s security were being taken although the Aquino administration had not received any report indicating retaliatory actions by the Abu Sayyaf.
These included the police remaining in full alert—its status since the observance of Holy Week last month, he said.
Lacierda said Oban had ordered the intelligence and operations unit of the AFP to assess and monitor the security situation in Mindanao.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., chair of the Anti-Terrorism Council, said he had reiterated to national security agencies the importance of maintaining measures to counter terrorist threats.
“We ask the public to be alert and request your cooperation as we continue to work to ensure the safety of our people,” Ochoa said in a statement.
Chief Supt. Alan Purisima, newly installed Metro Manila police commander, said he was maintaining the full alert status of the police in the capital. With reports from TJ Burgonio, Gil Cabacungan Jr., Jocelyn R. Uy, Cynthia D. Balana and Miko Morelos in Manila; and Julie S. Alipala, Inquirer Mindanao
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