THE Duterte government has ordered a nationwide security lockdown following a foiled attempt by a group of ISIS sympathizers to detonate a bomb, first at the crowded Rizal Park in Manila before transferring the powerful improvised explosive device near the United States Embassy along Roxas Boulevard last Monday, Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ M. de la Rosa said yesterday.
“We’re on full alert, we’re on Terror Alert 3,” Gen. de la Rosa told newsmen after presenting two suspects in the foiled plot to unleash an IED fashioned out of an 81mm mortar round some 100 meters away from the U.S. Embassy early Monday morning.
“We’re conducting checkpoints, mobile and random checkpoints in Metro Manila and other metropolitan and highly-urbanized centers in The Philippines,” the top cop said. However, in line with President Duterte’s order, the checkpoints won’t be fixed or stationary to prevent their being used by some rogues in uniform to extort money from civilians.
De la Rosa also apologized to the entire Filipino nation for the failure of the police to intercept the IED reportedly brought to Manila from Mindanao by the suspects despite the state of lawlessness ordered by President Duterte.
“I’m very sorry and I want to apologize for it. It means that our efforts are still wanting in spite of the state of lawlessness,” he said.
The PNP chief said that with the Terror Alert Level 3 already raised, the public should expert much tighter checks in the streets under the PNP Oplan: Sita. “Expect some raids to be conducted by our security forces on suspected terrorist lairs,” he said.
“We’re worried and that’s why we react accordingly but there’s no cause for alarm. I’m advising the public to be vigilant, to be cautious but don’t be alarmed, let’s enjoy Christmas,” he said.
De la Rosa also said that he can’t say that the foiled terror plot won’t be repeated. “We can’t read everyone’s mind but I assure the public that the PNP and the Armed Forces are trying their very best to secure the country. We are doing all we can. We are doing our best to secure the country but we cannot guarantee there will be no repeat of this incident,” he said.
The massive terror alert was raised a day after the arrest of suspects Rashid Kilala and Jiaher Guinar, 30, of Marawi City who were suspected to have placed the IED inside a trash bin near the U.S. Embassy. In a press briefing De la Rosa, flanked by National Capital Region Police Office director Chief Superintendent Oscar D. Albayalde and Manila Police District director Senior Supt. Joel Napoleon M. Coronel, said the two were believed to have declared allegiance to the Islamic State.
According to Gen. de la Rosa, the suspects who were arrested respectively in Caloocan City and Bulacan confessed that they planned the bombing attack to secure recognition and funding from the ISIS, as well as divert state forces from pounding Maute fighters in Lanao Del Sur.
“Ang motive nila para luluwag iyung operations doon sa Maute Group. At saka gusto nilang ma-recognize ng ISIS na talagang they are pro-ISIS, they are aligned with ISIS kung nakapagpasabog sila ng bomba at nagkaroon ng malaking pinsala, malaking casualties,” he said.
A portion of Roxas Boulevard was closed while a building of the U.S. Embassy were evacuated on Monday after a bomb was found at a trash can.