DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte directed the managements of malls, hotels and other establishments here on Tuesday to beef up security measures on their premises to guard against terrorist attacks or face closure.
Duterte issued the warning a day after explosions rocked two movie houses here Monday night. No one was reported seriously injured in either of the explosions, and police said the explosive devices did not have any shrapnel.
If businesses fail to tighten up security on their premises, “I will close them down,” Duterte said.
The explosions at Cinema 1 of SM City Mall in Ecoland Subdivision here and Cinema 5 of Gaisano Mall on J.P. Laurel Ave. did not cause any serious physical injuries but at least 15 moviegoers complained of momentary deafness.
The explosions, whose perpetrators or their motives police had yet to determine, occurred even as the military and the police said they were on heightened alert for possible movements of Moro National Liberation Front gunmen.
MNLF commanders in various parts of southern Mindanao had earlier promised not mount any attack in support of their comrades in Zamboanga City, who have been involved in heavy clashes with government security forces since Monday last week.
But even if other MNLF units do not launch attacks elsewhere in Mindanao, Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao warned of other groups that could take take advantage of the situation in Zamboanga City and fan Muslim-Christian dissent in other areas to pursue “their vested interests.”
Duterte said while government takes charge of the general security, business establishments “are responsible to secure your premises.”
“You fall short of that responsibility, you are liable,” he said, urging businesses to invest in security.
Senior Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa, Davao City police director, said the authorities were keeping a tight watch over the city but no suspect or group has been linked to the cinema explosions.
But whoever the perpetrators were, Duterte said, they did not come from the MNLF faction led by Nur Misuari.
“I just talked with Nur Misuari; he assured me it was not them,” said Duterte, who had no qualms about admitting friendship with the Moro leader. “I don’t know if these are sympathy moves (by other groups) but I am assured that the main MNLF declared they had nothing to do with the attacks.”
Duterte, who just flew in from South Korea, said the bombs were intended for American interests, as initial intelligence reports had indicated, but he did not explain why the explosions occurred in Filipino-operated malls.
Regardless of the target, Duterte said, one thing was clear: The explosions were intended to serve as warning, “and not to kill people.”
“Or else, why would they choose to attack the moviehouses at a time when there are no longer any people?” he asked.
Duterte admitted that the authorities were concerned.
“Yes, we’re very worried,” he said. “Would there be a second time and what kind of explosives will be used?”
On March 4, 2003, 21 people were killed and over 100 others were wounded when a bomb went off just outside the terminal building of the old Davao International Airport.
About two weeks later, more than a dozen people were killed when an explosion hit the Sasa wharf.
In both incidents, the authorities blamed Moro rebels although the so-called Oakwood mutineers claimed these were military-instigated.
Dela Rosa said that as part of the tightened security, about 1,000 policemen have been mobilized around the city.
He said that despite assurances from the MNLF commanders that no sympathy attacks would be mounted, MNLF members were being closely montiored.
Dela Rosa identified Sirawan in Toril district, Maa district, and Tigatto in Buhangin district as areas where MNLF members and supporters reside. With a report from Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao