MANILA, Philippines – Terrorists are allegedly planning to sow havoc in the city of San Juan and other parts of Metro Manila, intelligence reports obtained by ABS-CBN News revealed.
One document, which came from the government’s Office for Transportation Security (OTS), said a terror attack in the city could occur anytime between September to December.
“A terrorist group from Sulu is planning to deploy in San Juan, Metro Manila this coming September to conduct bombing operations against a still unidentified target,” the report warned.
“Terrorists who underwent the training would be the ones who would be sent to carry out the mission… to retaliate for the terrorists' losses to the government's counter-terrorist operation,” it added.
The Philippine National Police’s Aviation Security Group (PNP-ASG) had admitted receiving the intelligence report in August.
"We are treating it as A-1. [But because] constant naman ang threat sa ating airports dahil soft target ‘yan. We have intensified all our security measures that we have at present. We also have intensified our patrolling and panelling in the complex,” said Senior Superintendent Arturo Mendez Evangelista, PNP-ASG deputy director for operations.
The PNP-ASG has placed the entire Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex under heightened security alert.
In a memorandum dated November 2, 2010, police officers were ordered ensure the security and safety of airport users, as well as protection of the gateway's vital facilities and infrastructure, in light of the recent discovery of explosives placed in packages passed on as cargo overseas.
Police, meanwhile, expressed fears that the Muslim community in San Juan could be used by the terrorists to set up a safehouse.
“Hindi naman clear kung San Juan ang target area pero it’s possible na holding area nila considering na may Muslim communities dito. Marami rin namang mga condominium dito, ‘yun ang tinitignan natin. In response to intelligence information, closely mino-monitor naman natin,” said police Superintendent Procopio Lipana Jr.
The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) allegedly tried to blow up the Ortigas flyover in 2002. The attempt was foiled after Abdulmukim Edris was arrested in Pasay City in the same year.
Two years later, the ASG and the Rajah Sulayman Movement (RSM) reportedly established a cell in San Juan just before the Valentine’s Day bombing in 2005, according to the intelligence report.
“Among the plans of the cell was to detonate about 500 kilos of ammonium nitrate in a van under the MRT railway in the Ortigas area,” it added.
The OTS, which is under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), said “there is a possibility that the terrorists could attempt anew to carry out a similar attack targeting a critical infrastructure around the area of San Juan.”
Other intelligence reports obtained by ABS-CBN News alleged that 5 members of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who have ties with the ASG and the Southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), are planning to blow up parts of Metro Manila.
“In this regard, maximize police visibility patrols, be vigilant particularly on stations of LRT within AOR (area of responsibility), and coordinate with the Brgy. Officials regarding new personalities/suspicious personalities in their barangay within respective area of responsibility,” one police intelligence report said.
The report added that other members of the MILF’s Special Operations Group (SOG) “may have been deployed to other urban centers nationwide” to launch similar attacks.
“As such, identify possible targets of bomb attacks within your respective Area of Responsibility and intensify security in and around these possible targets,” the report said.
A memo from the National Capital Region Police Office, meanwhile, identified the brains of the alleged plot as a certain “Mackie,” who heads the MILF-SOG.
The document said the attack will be made using an improvised explosive device that will be placed at a yet to be identified Light Rail Transit station anywhere from Monumento to Baclaran.
Three possible targets
The Manila Police District (MPD), meanwhile, is on tight guard over 3 vital installations – Malacañang Palace, the United States embassy, and the Pandacan Oil depot.
The move was made after travel advisories from United Kingdom and Australia urged their nationals to avoid going to the Philippines particularly in Metro Manila.
In a press conference on Wednesday morning, Chief Superintendent Roberto Rongavilla, MPD director, said police have 3 special task forces that can be deployed anytime in case of an untoward incident in the vital installations.
"Based on previous experiences, alam naman natin na ang possible target will be ang US embassy, Malacañang, and the Pandacan oil depot. We do not take this for granted," Rongavilla said.
"We would like to inform the public that as far as this possible target areas are concerned, we have the task forces ready on call as we monitor some activities involving this three major vital installations.”
The MPD, meanwhile, refused to confirm the intelligence reports that at least 5 men linked to the JI are now in Metro Manila to carry out bombing attacks.
Police formed last September 21 Task Force “Code-One,” which is focused on securing President Benigno Aquino III when he is in Manila.
“The presence of terrorist elements in Metro Manila continue to pose a security threat to the peace and order in MPD area of responsibility. Any disruption of the government, its service and its agencies can paralyze the whole Metro Manila or the entire act of governance,” an intelligence document said.
It reiterated that terrorism will continue to threaten peace and order in the metropolis. – From an exclusive report by Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News