Bicol soldiers join war on terror
PILI, CAMARINES SUR—Heeding an order from President Duterte to launch a full-scale war on terror groups operating in Mindanao, an Army battalion left here on Saturday to join a massive military operation against members of the Abu Sayyaf and Maute group, which are being held responsible for a series of kidnappings and terror attacks in parts of Mindanao.
Maj. Gen. Manolito Orense, former head of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division and now commanding officer of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), would be in Butig, Lanao del Sur province, where the Maute group operates.
He said the Maute group had been a longtime security problem in the Lanao del Sur area. Members of the group have pledged loyalty to the international terrorist group Islamic State (IS).
The Philippine National Police in Bicol was placed on full alert on Saturday in response to the President’s declaration of a state of lawlessness in the country following the bombing in a Davao City night market that killed at least 10 people and wounded scores of others.
Senior Insp. Ma. Luisa Calubaquib, regional PNP spokesperson, said the highest state of alert has been declared in the region, which would put the entire regional police force on 24-hour duty.
The nationwide full alert declaration by Malacañang required all police regional directors, provincial police directors, including hundreds of chiefs of police, to closely supervise and step up security measures in airports, seaports, bus and public utility terminals, malls and public places.
The Maute group had been tagged in a daring raid on the Lanao del Sur provincial jail to spring members of the group that had been detained there. A total of 23 inmates were sprung from the jail during the raid on Aug. 27.
While Abu Sayyaf had issued a denial of involvement in the Davao bombing, authorities are closely looking at the group that is also involved in a spate of kidnappings and beheadings.
Orense said the 49th Infantry Battalion would reinforce the 101st Brigade in providing security in the Lanao area after the raid on the provincial jail in Lanao del Sur.
Orense said the 49th IB was selected for its record in combat, discipline and teamwork. But he admitted that the situation in Mindanao is different from that in Bicol.
Lt. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla, commanding officer of the 9th ID, called on the people of Southern Luzon to join the condemnation of the terror attack in Davao City.
“We solicit also the support of the local peace and order councils for our quest to have a safe and secure community,” he said.
Calubaquib, quoting a directive from the PNP central office, said all regional and provincial, city, town police units were directed to fortify all police stations, detachments and camps against possible terror attacks.
They were also directed to set up checkpoints and deploy police patrols in public places and areas where people converge. Patrols were also ordered in sites of vital infrastructure installations such as power and communication lines.
Police checkpoints would be set up in all major road networks in the six provinces of Bicol.
While conducting checkpoints, police were ordered to exercise extreme caution and told to coordinate with the military and other agencies.
Earlier, the National Bureau of Investigations here issued a warning to the public to be cautious in going to malls following unconfirmed reports about a possible attack by suicide bombers from Mindanao who are out to sow terror in Legazpi City.
The NBI later lifted the alarm status after it found the report to be a hoax.
The Joint Police Security Coordinating Council (JPSCC) would hold simulation and communication exercises for effective coordinated security measures soon.
Quidilla said the full alert status would not have an impact on the ceasefire with the New People’s Army.
“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) shall continue to perform its mandate of protecting the people and the communities through the conduct of security operations focused on the neutralization of threats to national security such as the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) and other terrorist groups, and the protection of communities,” Quidilla said.
Quidilla said soldiers would also ensure “the security of government facilities, military camps, development and economic infrastructures and flagship projects against any armed attacks or sabotage.”
He said the military would continue to support law enforcement operations to ensure peace and order in communities in the entire region.
The battalion of soldiers was given departure honors.
Josephine Clamonte, wife of Sgt. Jimmy Clamonte, was holding back her tears during the sendoff ceremony for the 49th IB. She said she was worried because it is the first time her husband is deployed in Mindanao.
“I am used to having my husband deployed somewhere else. But this is different because it is in Mindanao,” Josephine said.
Clamonte’s two sons wept as they embraced their father to say goodbye.
But for Cpl. Michael Babul, the deployment to Mindanao is a blessing in disguise because his family is in nearby Iligan City. Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.