Aquino: Travel advisories warned of mall attack, not bus blast

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2011 05:47 PM | Updated as of Jan 27 2011 07:25 AM

'No basis for travel warnings'

MANILA, Philippines - Despite the recent bombing of a bus on EDSA, President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday insisted there was no basis for last year's travel warnings issued by foreign governments about possible terror threats in the Philippines.

In an interview, Aquino said the travel advisories had quoted raw reports of an imminent attack on a mall, and not on a bus. 

"The basis for the travel advisory was a raw report, they were quoting an imminent attack on a mall. If I remember correctly, when they were passing it there wasn't a high confidence a level as to the veracity of the information given. But they give it in the oft chance na lest they be accused of not sharing pertinent information," Aquino said.

He added: "'Yung noon ho ang sinasabi, kung maalala ko, ang binabanggit nila ang target ay mall. 'Yung bus at 'yung mall malaki ho ang difference sa pagiging softer… But in the buses, ang layo 'nung pagiging softer. This was not identified in the previous reports."

The President admitted there are vulnerable areas in any country's security. He previously mentioned the attack on an airport in Russia. 

"Paano naman ho kung may dumating dito na unknown who is below the radar? Ano ba ang below the radar? He's new. He does not appear on any intelligence watch list in any intelligence agency in the world. He comes in, he goes out. That is a particular vulnerability of any country. Somebody who escapes the radar of the entire intelligence community of the world. There is no such thing as a hundred percent security," Aquino said.            

Aquino said the Cabinet security cluster met today to revisit and reassess all intelligence data to see if authorities had missed information on an imminent terrorist attack.

"We are trying to correlate all of this data again, revisit all of them, to find out if there were any indications of any groups that were planning this," the President told reporters after attending the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Council of Universities of St. Thomas Aquinas (ICUSTA) at the University of Santo Tomas campus.                   

The government is not yet singling out a particular individual or group behind yesterday's blast pending the conclusion of the investigation.

The President said authorities are also exploring the angle that extortionists are targeting bus companies.

"At this present time, we will not point to any particular group as being behind this. We're not even sure that the label 'terrorists' is the most appropriate. There are certain sectors that are saying it might be an extortionist group also. So until after we have the data and solid evidence, I think we and nobody can make any pronouncements," Aquino said.