WHAT happened to the security?
Security forces in Davao City were slapped with this question when the Roxas Night Market blast rocked the city a year ago, incurring many casualties that remains fresh in the memories of the Dabawenyos especially the victims.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Davao City when the bombing happened, went to the blast site after which he declared state of lawlessness to suppress and counter the threat of terrorism from spreading. A red alert status was immediately imposed.
Since then, the security landscape of the city has significantly changed and various adjustments were done. Several anti and counter-terrorism measures in the city were undertaken to build a stronger defense against lawless armed groups.
A new Task Force Davao (TFD) commander in the person of Colonel Erwin Bernard Neri was installed days after Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio relieved former TFD commander Henry Robinson because of the bloody incident.
Neri shared in an interview that he was confronted with a huge challenge on how to restore the city’s image as a safe, peaceful and livable city and thus, he designed stringent measures and strategies to better secure the city against terrorist plot.
According to him, Mayor Duterte-Carpio has given him the instruction to be always on his toes to avoid the repeat of the incident.
Heightened security measures and intelligence monitoring were implemented such as beefing of the fixed checkpoints in Lasang, Toril and in Calinan, as well as the random inspection and with the installation of additional cameras all throughout the city for security monitoring.
“Marami pang ibang security measures na ginawa like talagang pinaigting natin ang mga foot patrols, mobile patrols, motorcycle patrols even sa coastal patrols,” Neri said.
They have acquired new equipment which has the capacity to recognize faces of terrorist posted on their gallery. Neri also proposed the modern security equipment which was supported by the City Government and is now in the procurement process.
The bombing incident has elevated the public's level of awareness on terrorism as the TFD troops have responded to several calls of unattended baggage and confiscation of loose firearms and illegal drugs at the checkpoints.
“It was really a big challenge kasi umupo ako after na may malaking nangyari. Mabigat ang nangyari at kailangan talaga na ang objective ay sana hindi maulit. That’s the reason why marami tayong measures na in-implement to ensure the safety and security the whole Davao,” he said.
Neri all throughout has kept on reminding his personnel not to lower their guards despite the prevailing peace and absence of direct threat.
“So far, maganda ang result but hindi pwede dahil maganda ang result magre-relax na tayo or ibaba na ang level of alertness. Davao City will always be the target kasi ito ang alternate seat ng government,” he said.
It helped a lot that the people of Davao have been through the worst in the past, it has created a city that is resilient and willing to come together to build up from what has been shaken. Thus, after a shaky few months, the city was back on its feet.
The City Government was able to host several international and local events help in the city where law enforcement units united to ensure the safety and security of the participants which made the events a success with no terrorism incident happened.
Davao City was able to successfully host the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) chairmanship launching, visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Miss Universe Tapestry Show, Araw ng Dabaw, Kadayawan and among others.
The stricter measures also led to the arrest of Cayamora Maute, the patriarch of the Maute Terrorist Group and its companion at the checkpoint.
Neri attributed the success of their security measures to the active support of the public in their anti-terrorism campaign, the City Government, various sectors and relentless effort of the law enforcement units.
On one hand, Public Safety and Security Command Center (PSSCC) head Benito De Leon who likewise took the office in the wake of the explosion that ripped that Roxas street said that for him, he could say that they were able to successfully prevent the terrorist threats because of the absence of similar attack last year.
Following the incident, the mayor has invested to better improve the security like funding the training of 900 Volunteer Police Auxiliary (VPA) and 48 Special Weapon and Tactical (Swat) members.
“What we did after the Roxas Night Market blast is we improved our security protocols and then both the police and military have tightened its security on convergence areas," de Leon said.
De Leon added that the city had also passed an ordinance that would penalize those who left unattended baggage for it may cause unnecessary panic among the public.
"This will help out our security forces and tap the cooperation of the populace to support in limiting baggage that maybe used to deploy IEDs. Alam naman natin yong IED nakalagay lang sa bag ng nagpamasahe," he said.
They have been also aggressive in engaging the communities and different sectors to be the city's partner in fighting terrorism.
"All of this is intended to make Davao City a hard target meaning, mahirap mapasukan," he emphasized.
"I would say, I think we have succeeded in putting in place to making Davao City more safe and secure," he said.
According to him, the challenge now is prodding and motivating the people to go an extra mile.
Meanwhile, for Davao City Police Office (DCPO), they have been active in stepping up several operations in different communities especially now with the imposition of Martial Law.
DCPO launch Oplan Bulabog to locate suspected members of the terrorist group who might be hiding in the city. They invited several personalities for profiling to monitor the movement of the people who are coming in and going out of the city.