Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tight security, probe ordered after blasts

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Malacañang has assured residents here that the government is acting on the Thursday morning bombing that left two people dead and two police officers wounded, the city’s second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said. “President Aquino just called me to assure us that he is on top of the situation, and that there will (be) a full investigation and security measures will be instituted to prevent similar occurrence,” Rodriguez said yesterday. Rodriguez said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome also gave assurance of a “speedy and full” investigation into the incident. The President promised to help the victims and the families of those who were killed, Rodriguez added. Aquino has ordered the PNP to tighten security in Mindanao in the wake of Thursday’s Cagayan de Oro City bombing. Authorities are linking the bombing to an unnamed group opposed to the government’s peace efforts in Mindanao. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang would wait for the PNP to complete its investigation into the bombing incidents in Mindanao before making a statement. “At this point, while the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature for us to (comment),” Valte said. Rodriguez added regional, provincial and city police authorities immediately met to “identify the three suspects who planted the bombs, ensure security for our people and discuss their logistical requirements.” He added that there were suggestions for the procurement of more radio equipment, bomb sniffing dogs and motorcycles for policemen. “We gave financial assistance to the families of Rudy Jote and Toto Indang, who died due to the bomb blast,” Rodriguez reported. Regional police director Northern Mindanao Regional Police director Chief Superintendent Gil Hitosis awarded “Wounded in Action” medals to Police Officers 1 Rogelio Canilanza and Dexter Dao, who were confined at the Polymedic Hospital. The two policemen were about to inspect the package containing the bomb when it exploded. Hitosis said they are checking the possible link of the explosion in Zamboanga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as the Philippine government is about to forge a deal with a group while the other group feels left out. Hitosis clarified that as of now, authorities have no strong evidence linking the explosion to the peace deal. Southern Mindanao has been placed under full alert status following the series of bombing incidents in Zamboanga City and Cagayan de Oro City. S Southern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Jaime Morente said all police and Special Action Force units in the region have been placed on full alert. The city of Butuan in Northern Mindanao was also placed under full alert following the bombings. Even as security has been tightened in Mindanao, some 50 unidentified gunmen scared away villagers in Montawal town in Maguindanao late Thursday by indiscriminately firing high-powered firearms. Lt. Col. Benjie Hao, commanding officer of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said they are now helping the police determine the identities of the gunmen and the real motive for the shooting frenzy. No one was killed in the incident, but the loud repeated bursts of automatic gunfire forced villagers to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other barangays, he said. “We’re not even sure if it was politically motivated, or a show of force,” Hao said. Montawal is a politically troubled town, where several barangay chairmen are at odds with certain local incumbent officials. The Maguindanao provincial police office has ordered an extensive probe on the incident. Hao said they have also asked the government’s ceasefire committee, which deals with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to help identify the gunmen. Montawal is a known gateway to the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh, a bastion of the MILF. Hao said local officials are convinced that MILF forces were not involved in the harassment, aware that rebel commanders in the area have good relations with the municipal ceasefire monitors and have religiously been adhering to the ceasefire accord. – Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica, John Unson, Ben Serrano, Edith Regalado, Cecille Suerte Felipe