Aquino now sees threat as related to 2013 polls

Posted on January 12, 2012

PRESIDENT BENIGNO S. C. Aquino III has directed the Cabinet security cluster to look into the possibility that the terrorist threat in Monday’s religious rite in Manila was actually election-related.

The President said that he has given security officials “quite a number of directions,” including that they “study the possibility” if the perceived terrorist threat will target the 2013 midterm elections.

“Perhaps it is a call on us to implement operations that will ensure peaceful elections next year...,” said Mr. Aquino in a chance interview during an inauguration of a contact center company in Pasay City yesterday.

Mr. Aquino said he gave the additional orders on the plan to minimize the threat during the change of command ceremonies for the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base the day before.

Prior to the Black Nazarene procession, law enforcers had raided several safehouses of suspected terrorists, but did not yielded “positive results.”

The police and military have remained on heightened alert pending the arrest of at least “six to nine” terror suspects spotted in Metro Manila since August.

“We are still looking for all of the suspects... Now, there’s a threat, so far as we have not apprehended an individual, then it remains,” said Mr. Aquino.

To stress his point, the President noted that an attack against Cotabato City Vice-Mayor Muslimin Sema on Tuesday may have been “election-related.”

Mr. Sema, current chairman of the Council of 15 of the Moro National Liberation Front, is in stable condition after sustaining gunshot wounds.

Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, in a separate phone interview, said that the government is being cautious in using the existing task forces to ensure that there is no “buildup” of violence towards the elections.

“While there is no intelligence report yet that there are people out to disrupt the elections, we must remember that there is usually a buildup of violence, loose firearms, and people with capability to sow terror prior to an election,” said Mr. Robredo. -- J. P. D. Poblete