By NITZ ARANCON
and LITO RULONA
MAYOR Oscar Moreno would meet with top security officials in the city to ensure that appropriate security measures are in place here in the light of Friday night’s bomb attack in Davao City.
But even before, security officials here could meet, the National Police already stepped up intelligence gathering operations and security measures in the city and elsewhere in northern Mindanao.
Northern Mindanao has been identified as a likely target for terror attacks, said Supt. Surki Sereñas, Camp Alagar spokesperson.
The emergency meeting is set at 10 am at city hall. Among those asked to attend are officials of Camp Alagar and Camp Evangelista, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Department of Interior and local Government (DILG), and representatives of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC). Also expected to come are Councilor Romeo Calizo who chairs the city council’s committee on public safety.
Moreno said the objective is to prevent a similar bomb attack from being carried out in the city, and ensure that security forces would be coordinating well in the city.
“Dili mahimo nga dili sila mag-collaborate ug dili mag-coordinate ang mga security agencies sa gobyerno,” said Moreno.
He also called for vigilance in the city. “All eyes should be opened. We need to be vigilant and report to authorities if there are people who are acting suspiciously.”
Chief Supt. Noel Constantino, police director for Region 10, placed the police across northern Mindanao under full alert status.
Constantino ordered more police checkpoints to be set up in strategic areas in the region but called on citizens to keep calm but very vigilant.
He said those who are acting suspiciously and packages or bags left behind should be reported to authorities.
“All units are directed to intensify intelligence monitoring, implement target-hardening measures, conduct strong checkpoints in constant coordination with AFP, and other government agencies,” reads part of a directive issued by Constantino.
“The police and Armed Forces authorities are taking various measures to tighten security and ensure public safety within the region,” he said.
Supt. Sereñas said Camp Alagar has yet to receive a clear directive from Camp Crame about President Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawless violence. In its absence, he said Camp Alagar would “continue to perform our duties and ensure that the chances of terror attacks within Northern Mindanao will be reduced to nil.”
Sereñas said Constantino also ordered specific places and installations in the city and region guarded. These are government buildings, power facilities, public markets, plazas, bus terminals, airports and similar thickly populated areas.
“There is a big possibility that Cagayan de Oro would be the next target for terror attacks,” Sereñas said.
He said the police would carry out security operations 24 hours a day, and no officer is allowed to go on leave.
“Tanan police stations will conduct checkpoints. All police officers will be armed, and will be waiting and ready for instructions,” he said.
Over a dozen people, including a 12-year old boy, were killed, while over 60 others were wounded in the explosion at the popular night market along Roxas Ave. in Davao at around 9:50 pm Friday.
The bomb exploded on the street between the compound of the Christ for All Nations Church and the Ateneo de Davao University’s Community Center Building.
Ateneo guard Benedicto Torres said he felt the ground shake because of the powerful explosion.
The victims were immediately taken to the entrance of the Community Center Building by the Central 911 responders. The dead were placed on one side of Padre Zamora Street.
Torres said that after the blast, he saw a smoke that wafted above the tents where the massage therapists were.
Six hours later, while visiting the blast site, President Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness… until there is a threat against the people and nation.”
He clarified that it was not martial law, and that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus has not been suspended. But he said the Armed Forces and the National Police would “run the country according to my specifications.”
He said, “There will be a lockdown in the city and there will so many checkpoints along the way. These are extraordinary times and I suppose I am authorized to allow the security forces of our country to do searches” at checkpoints, among others.
Duterte added: “I have this duty to protect the country, I have this duty to keep intact the integrity of our nation.”
Addressing Davao residents, Duterte, who served as the city’s mayor for 22 years across seven terms, said: “Be calm” because the bombing is “seasonal in our city.”
“This is not the first time that Davao City has been sacrificed at the altar of violence,” he said. (with reports from mindanews)