By Mike Baños, Editor-at-Large
Northern Mindanao still remains under Terror Alert Level 3 but residents can go about their usual businesses as usual without however, letting down their vigilance against suspicious persons or activities.
This was the gist of the regional security situationer delivered by Assistant Regional Director Allan Campos, National Intelligence Coordination Agency Region 10 (NICA-10) during the 1st Quarter Regional Economic Situationer (QRES) round table coordinated by the National Economic and Development Authority Region 10 (NEDA-10) office last May 5, 2018.
“For the past few months, Region 10 is on Threat Level 3 (High Alert) this means there are still planned threats from the remnants of ISIS-inspired local terrorists Maute Group who are now in Lanao del Sur,” Campos said. “So there are planned atrocities in key cities like CDO, Iligan and Marawi that’s why we remain on high alert threat level.”
As if to illustrate this point, two suspected terrorists were arrested last June 6 at a checkpoint in Barangay Gusa, Cagayan de Oro, a day before the ordination of Fr. Raul Dael as the new bishop of Tandag, Surigao del Sur June 7 at the St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral.
Police authorities suspect the ordination, which was the biggest Roman Catholic religious event so far this year, was the purported target of the two suspects identified as Eyadzhemar Abusalam and Dianne Catherine Palmitos, two alleged Maute group symphatizers. Seized from the suspects were a .45 caliber pistol and two hand grenades.
Under the Terror Threat Advisory System of the Anti-Terrorism Council, an area is placed under Threat Level 3 “when a terrorist attack is a strong possibility within a short period of time.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP) adopted a 3-level security advisory system in 2013 which collates intelligence, target-hardening or increasing security at vital installations and establishments, and incident management.
The PNP said the public should remain calm even during a Terror Level 3 since it is merely a preventive measure against likely attacks by threat groups in a designated area.
The 2013 Revised PNP Operational Procedures manual provides that during bombing attacks and explosions perpetrated by terrorists, the Inter-Agency Protocol on Explosives and Related Incidents investigation among the PNP, military, National Bureau of Investigation, and Philippine Coast Guard shall be strictly followed.
“Civilians should conduct themselves and their business as usual but should not let down their level of vigilance against suspicious activities and persons and report these immediately to authorities,” Campos said. He noted how martial law is still in effect in Mindanao although Cagayan de Oro no longer implements a curfew.
The NICA official said the NICA is also monitoring the New People’s Army on top of the ISIS-inspired Maute Groups.
“We have reports of activities in Opol and Lugait visited by armed groups which seized radio communications equipment of the barangays,” he noted. “Lately, there has also been a series of encounters in Claveria-Gingoog Area to Lagonglong resulting in the evacuation of some IPs to the Misamis Oriental provincial capitol grounds.”
However, Campos noted the Gingoog-Claveria-Villanueva Road is safe to travel since it is being secured by the 58th Infantry Battalion stationed along the highway.
“Dangers would be more on road safety and weather, but no NPA checkpoints have been reported in the highway for past few months.”
In a meeting of the RIC last March, Campos said the council also cited some companies in banana and pineapple plantations in the region have been implementing programs in conflict-affected areas where communities susceptible to threat groups are given livelihood programs to woo them away from threat groups.
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