Safety of diplomats, workers in US embassy assured-A A +A
Sunday, September 16, 2012
MANILA -- Malacañang assured on Sunday the safety of US diplomats and other personnel in the US embassy here following the killing of a top American diplomat in Libya.
The US embassy has beefed up safety measures upon the directive of US President Barack Obama to increase security in all diplomatic posts across the world.
Obama's order came after American ambassador to Tripoli Christopher Stevens and three others were killed by protesters who got mad in the film "Innocence of Muslims" that allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammad.
Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen has praised the killing of the US ambassador in Libya and called for more attacks to expel American embassies from Muslim nations.
The US State Department on Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential US government personnel from its embassies in Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against any travel to the two countries due to security concerns over rising anti-American violence.
But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Americans in the Philippines should not fear Filipino Muslims and there is no need for them to leave their diplomatic post in Manila.
"The envoys and the US Embassy personnel here in the Philippines do not need to flee because our Muslim community has always conducted themselves with goodwill and sobriety," Valte said in her weekly radio interview over state-run dzRB.
"There's no danger against them here in Manila and in the Philippines. The government can guarantee the safety of the US Embassy," she added.
Valte said the government has no plan to ask Google to block access to anti-Muslim film, noting that it is part of freedom of expression.
Google is also refusing a White House request to take down an anti-Muslim clip on YouTube, but is restricting access to it in certain countries.
"In the entire two years and a few odd months that the President has been in office, the administration has never asked to take down anything. I think everybody knows that there are a lot of videos that may be considered offensive by some sectors. But that's also part of the free speech," she said.
The Palace official also said she is not aware of any intelligence report of possible attack against US posts in the country.
The Filipino organization Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) in a statement said the expected escalation of violent protests in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen against the US should be enough reason to steer clear of US diplomatic posts.
"To emphasize the need to be safe and to secure ourselves from harm and violent acts, we strongly urge our fellow OFWs to stay clear of protesting crowds, especially near the diplomatic posts of the US and similar establishments as targets of massive protests," said M-ME Coordinator John Leonard Monterona.
According to the group, the precaution is not limited to the three countries only.
Monterona said an initial assessment of the situation provides that the Muslim protests may snowball to other Middle Eastern countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
"It is necessary for all Filipinos working in those countries to take necessary precautions and are advised to limit unnecessary movements within these countries," said the Migrante official.
Monterona also discouraged Filipinos abroad from maligning any religion and their prophets to avoid a similar reaction by Muslims toward the movie, wherein Prophet Mohammad, was supposedly insulted.
"Once again, we strongly advised our fellow Filipinos in the Middle East to be respectful of the host government state religion and their symbols," he said.
But Vice President Jejomar Binay believes that the heightened security at the US embassy was an "overreaction."
"Although there is nothing wrong if they heighten their security, I don't see any threat here in the Philippines," he said.
Despite the latest tension in Libya, Binay said there is no need to repatriate Filipinos like last year when thousands were sent back home because of a civil war triggered by moves to oust then Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi, who was later killed in an encounter.
"So far, they are only criticizing the United States and not the other countries. Everything is okay," he said.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz also said earlier that mandatory repatriation will not be implemented as a result of the attacks. However, the department will now apply strict screening of Libya-bound Filipino workers at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
In the Middle East, Filipinos were told to avoid going to areas near US-controlled establishments. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/HDT/AP/Sunnex)