DAVAO City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte called for a command conference at the Public Safety Command Center (PSCC) on Thursday night, shortly after the bomb attack at an airport in Zamboanga City.
The bomb explosion took place at 6:15 p.m. Thursday outside the arrival area of the Zamboanga International Airport while the passengers of a commercial plane that arrived from Manila were coming out.
The incident resulted in the death of two people, including Jimil Yacob and a suspected suicide bomber identified only as Reynaldo Apelado. Twenty-four others were injured in the incident, including Sulu Governor Abdusaakur Tan and a British national. Tan believes he was the target of the suspect.
Organizations comprising the Davao City's Oplan Laban Terrorismo (OLT) were present during the hastily-called conference around 10 p.m. when Duterte was briefed on the development of the investigation of the explosion.
"We reviewed our security plans during a bomb threat and we reviewed also our duties and responsibilities during this kind of alert level. Now we're at yellow, we are at yellow even before this, at this alert level they already know what to do. They each have their own tasks. I called for a meeting tonight so when they meet all their men, they would relay what we have talked about during the meeting," Duterte said in an interview after the conference that lasted for an hour.
"Sa ngayon we have checkpoints and continued police and military visibility. Considering na malapit na ang Kadayawan festival the police and military have (intensified) security measures in the city," Duterte said.
PSCC chief, Retired Colonel Verner Monsanto, said they considered the bombing incident as "isolated," saying it was directed at one person.
"What happened in Zamboanga perhaps was targeted against one person -- Jolo Governor Abdusaakur Tan, as he himself saw it that way. It may not happen here but we will be vigilant because we have a big activity in the next few weeks, wherein we will have the Kadayawan Festival," said Monsanto, who is also commander of the emergency response unit Central 911.
"Terrorists are always attracted to places with many people. It's as if a really sweet thing that would attract ants. This is why I am also calling to the people to be very vigilant. If you do not know how to contact the police and the military, you call Central 911. Just dial 911 to inform us with what you find suspicious," he added.
Task Force Davao (TFD) Deputy Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Jim Niembra, confirmed that among those discussed during the conference were the recent activities of international terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). He, however, did not disclose if the JI is considered as a main suspect in the Zamboanga bombing.
"We are not in the position to speculate at isa pa hindi kami part sa mga nag-iinvestigate," Niembra said.
The explosion occurred a few days after a suspected member of the regional terrorist group JI cell member Edgar Malaydan was arrested in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province. Extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and its JI cohorts were tagged in bombing activities in the past.
Security forces were able to control cases of terror attacks in the past months following the neutralization of some of the two groups' key members and leaders.
However, investigation is still being conducted if indeed the bombing has something to do with the arrival of Governor Tan.
One particular concern discussed during the closed-door conference, however, was the security plans at the Davao International Airport.
Duterte particularly cited the changes made in the area outside the terminal building and the baggage checking before people can enter the building.
"Actually last month pa yan, merong lane na pwedeng magpark ang mga sasakyan which is very near the main entrance and yung baggage checking before you are allowed to enter the building wala na, sa loob na lang. I told Col. Monsanto to visit the airport (Friday)," Duterte said.
Monsanto said it was the consensus of the task force that the previous security plan of the airport be reinstalled where the parking area is far from the entrance. Cars, he said, should not be allowed to stay long outside the entrance, adding that it was observed that there were also baggage personnel before entering the building.
"Everybody agreed that we should go back to the previous security measures. The mayor has given me the task to visit the airport, make observations, (and) even take pictures, so we can submit recommendation to Caap (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines). So, as she said, they would know what is our stand. Ang Caap kasi is an autonomous body. We cannot dictate on them. Actually, we have invited them to be a part of Oplan Laban Terorismo but hindi sila (pumayag)," Monsanto said in vernacular.
Monsato, however, made an assessment in the event a bomb explodes at the building entrance of the airport.
"If you'd imagine that the structure of the main entrance, it's all glass. If a bomb, not that we would want that, ever explodes there, the glass would shatter and spread. It could be the one that would cause a greater number of casualties. We're concerned that in this scenario there could be more casualties," Monsanto said.
He also said the PSCC is most helpful in times when the city is under threat.
"This is in line with its purpose. We conducted out conference here because this is the right venue for us to coordinate, all our agencies, in terms of safety and security," he said.
Peace and order council
Duterte said she is set to release the executive order (EO) for the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC).
She earlier said the CPOC member under her administration will be composed of government and non-government organizations, as well as representatives from the private sector.
"Yes, the EO for the CPOC is ready but on matters of terrorism, it's best discussed in a command conference with the (OLT) signatories," Duterte said.
She assured the public that the city's law enforcers "are doing their best to keep the city safe."
"There's no reason to worry. All our security agencies, our Task Force Davao, our police and all other that are related agencies to the security are working for the people of Davao and they are trying their best and they are doing their best to keep our city safe," Duterte said.
Vice mayor absent
Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was not present during the meeting although Mayor Duterte said she invited her father through a text message to his assistant, Lawrence Go.
"Yes, of course (I invited him). Nagsulti ko sa iyahang aide, since wala man na siyay cellphone. Nagsulti ko sa iyahang aide na there is a conference tonight for the signatories of Laban sa Terrorismo (I did inform his aide through text message that there will be a conference)," the younger Duterte said.
Duterte said she received a reply also through text that the vice mayor declined to join the conference.
Davao City Police Office Director Rene Aspera and Task Force Davao commander Colonel Oscar Lactao were also not present during the meeting but were represented by their deputies.
Monsanto clarified that Aspera and Lactao are on leave. (Jade C. Zaldivar)