MANILA, Philippines — Policemen in Mindanao and in the National Capital Region have been ordered on full alert, following military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf Group.
Troops in the Cotabato and Lanao provinces have also been ordered to be on guard against a possible spillover of violence from Basilan and Sulu, where pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf are ongoing, Armed Forces chief General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said.
Esperon said this was in compliance with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s directive for the military to work for “total security” in Mindanao.
“Total security, it’s just that while you are fighting in Basilan in Sulu, other forces are ready to protect infrastructure and population centers in other parts of Mindanao. This is in anticipation of possible spillovers,” Esperon told reporters.
The full police alert, which means all policemen in the areas covered must remain at their posts at all times, was to preempt possible diversionary attacks from the rebels, Chief Superintendent Samuel Pagdilao, PNP spokesman, said Tuesday.
“This is in anticipation of any attack…there might be people working to divert the government’s attention,” Pagdilao told reporters.
Philippine National Police Director General Oscar Calderon ordered the full alert, which began 12:00 noon Monday, said Pagdilao.
The alert status will be downgraded as soon as the Intelligence group has properly evaluated the situation, said Pagdilao.
Esperon said an additional five Army battalions were sent to augment existing forces in Cotabato and Lanao as early as July 10, the day 14 Marines died in Al-Barkah town in an encounter with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits.
While soldiers in Central Mindanao are on alert, Esperon said the military does not expect the sympathy attacks to come from the MILF, saying “our ceasefire mechanisms are holding.”
“But just the same, we have to maintain our presence in areas [Lanao and Cotabato] where there could be some sympathetic violence,” he said, adding, “Our troops are always on alert.”
Earlier in the day, Presidentsaid that the government would not back out in its fight with the Abu Sayyaf.
More than 57 soldiers and dozens of Abu Sayyaf fighters have been killed in clashes in Basilan and Sulu since July 10.
Last Saturday, 15 Marines were killed in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan. An attack helicopter pilot was also killed after his aircraft crashed while returning to base after providing ground support to the embattled troops.
Four engagements in Maimbung, Parang, and Indanan in Sulu from August 7 to 9 left 27 soldiers killed.
Originally posted at 02:18 pm