Military intelligence operatives are now closely monitoring public places around Metro Manila, particularly shopping malls and transport terminals, as part of the intensified security operations implemented following the supposed terror plot during Monday’s Feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila.
A senior military officer, who requested anonymity, said the plainclothes operatives from the intelligence community have been dispatched to public places to thwart possible disruption of the peace and order in the capital region.
“These covert action agents are now closely monitoring public places frequented by people as part of our intensified intelligence gathering operations,” the officer said.
He added among the places in the National Capital Region (NCR) now closely being monitored are shopping malls and transport terminals where thousands of people come and go.
The official, however, refused to divulge how many intelligence operatives are now roaming around Metro Manila, apparently hunting down six to nine terrorists believed to have plotted attack during the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila which drew 8 million devotees.
No less than the commander in chief, President Aquino, aired the warning of the alleged terror plot on Sunday or the eve of the feast. The government even asked telecommunications companies to disrupt signals in Manila as part of the pre-cautionary measures, noting the used of cellular phone as triggering device during previous terror attacks.
However, no major incident happened during the 22-hour procession, the longest ever procession of the Black Nazarene.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin claimed the terror threat was not ordinary, prompting the President to personally make the warning to the public. Gazmin said the monitored suspects disappeared after the announcement.
Gazmin vowed that government security forces will not stop until the plotters, believed to be members of the al Qaeda-lined Jemaah Islamiyah, the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Special OperationsGroup, are captured.
Governmenr security forces over the weekend raided three suspected terrorist lairs in Manila and Rizal province but yielded negative results.
At a press briefing yesterday, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. stressed that the military remains on heightened alert not only in Metro Manila but in the entire country, apparently due to the continuing threat of terrorism.
“Our sustained heightened alertness and vigilance will continue not only in the NCR but in the whole Philippines,” Burgos said.
“In spite of the termination of the successful celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, the AFP will continue to provide support to the Philippine National Police in terms of security, manpower, intelligence and monitoring efforts as they are still maintaining their heightened alert status against threat groups in the NCR,” Burgos added.
Burgos, however, did not categorically say the terror threat remains in Metro Manila.
“We assure that our troops will exhaust all their efforts in tracking down suspected terrorist personalities not only here in NCR but elsewhere in the country where terrorism threat continues to exist,” Burgos said.
“We call on and urge our citizens to do their part and be more vigilant because the fight against terrorism is everybody’s concern,” Burgos said.
By Mario J. Mallari
The Daily Tribune