THE Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group and the rogue Moro rebels in Mindanao were among the three groups being eyed in the spate of bombings in some parts of the island, President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday.
Aquino said these groups were "desperate" already to prevent the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from succeeding.
"This is a desperate act by a small sector dead set against the attainment of peace in Mindanao," he said at the opening of the three-day 22nd Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) at SMX Convention Center, SM Lanang Premier in Davao City.
"Tatlong grupo ang aming tinitingnan na dati may pagka loose yung kanilang samahan tila ngayon ay nagsamasama. Kasi may pagka desperado na nga para mahadlang yung ating proseso ng ating pagkakaroon ng kapayapaan dito sa Mindanao," the President said.
Even as this developed, Aquino lauded the security measures being implemented in Davao City, led by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
"Palaging may lumalabas na reports na may intention (to bomb Davao City) pero umiiwas sila kasi maganda ang seguridad dito at saka maganda ang palakad ni Mayor Duterte amongst others. Good ang cooperation between the LGU and security services," he said in a press conference after the MinBizCon’s opening ceremonies.
"And hopefully that will still continue to deter (any terror attacvks)," he added.
Davao City has been placed on a red alert status following the series of explosions in Cagayan de Oro City, Cotabato City and in Midasayap town in North Cotabato.
Davao City Police Office Chief Ronald dela Rosa earlier said the security in the city is intensified especially that Kadayawan sa Dabaw Festival officially starts today.
Around 2,000 police and military personnel will be deployed in the city for Kadayawan, dela Rosa said, adding that there will be 50 more personnel from Regional Mobile Group and 150 personnel from Public Safety Company from other units in Davao Region will be sent over.
Even Police Regional Office Director Wency Pascual said that Davao City had always figured as a target for terrorists.
"Pero before pa yun. However, we are not discounting na baka mangyari nga dito sa atin. We are being proactive in information gathering," he said in a previous interview.
In the wake of the series of bombings, Duterte the other day announced he may possibly cancel some of the events for the Kadayawan.
"I might just decide to cancel it not because I am afraid. There is no place here (to be afraid). I will not put in peril, in jeopardy, the lives of people," he said.
The mayor is expected to announce his decision on August 13.
Aquino said that operations to neutralize and capture all of those behind the recent series of bombings are ongoing.
He said that the clash between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Armed Forces of the Philippines are among the possible angles that the government is looking into.
"We have tasked the security sector to implement and continue the hardening that was done previously," he said.
Aquino said there are no changes as to the assessment on where these forces are able to undertake such operations.
He said he also mulls of appealing later the "greater citizen involvement in detecting suspicious individuals or activities."
"To increase para maging cross multiplier sa ating security services," Aquino said.
The President said that Abu Sayyaf bandits were allegedly behind the Cagayan de Oro City and Cotabato City bombings, while the BIFF, the splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) formed by Ameril Umbra Kato, allegedly perpetrated the blasts in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
Aquino did not name the third group, which was also allegedly behind the bombings.
He said the three "joined together" to oppose the process of bringing peace in Mindanao.
"For a long time, we have been working to neutralize these elements; and this is a fight in which we have had quite a few successes. And so our continuing message is this: To those willing to partner with us for peace, we welcome you as brothers; but to those who want to challenge the authority of the State, you will feel the full brunt, depth, and might of the State's response," he said.
"You will not get in the way of the peace and the stability that will help fulfill the potential of Mindanao," he stressed.
Aquino said that he would be meeting again his Cabinet members under security cluster to discuss the possible reward system for the information leading to the arrest of the suspects in the recent bombings.
He also said that he already tasked the security sector of the government to implement target hardening as there were "aspirational plans" by the suspects to conduct bombings in other areas.
"Part of what I will be appealing for later on is greater citizen involvement in detecting suspicious either individuals or activities to increase, to make them force multiplier on our security services," the President said. (With Sunnex)