By Ben Rosario
Lawmakers were assured today that Metro Manila remains safe from terror attacks notwithstanding intelligence reports indicating the presence in the metropolis of relatives and supporters of the Maute group, an IS-backed but locally-bred terrorists who recently laid siege to Marawi City.
The Philippine National Police Capital Regional Police Office (PNP-NCRPO) gave the assurance to the House committee on Metro Manila development during a hearing presided by Rep. Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City).
PNP-NCRPO chief Director Oscar Albayalde said security plans for Metro Manila during the Christmas season are now being carried out and that possible Maute terror activities are being addressed.
Albayalde admitted that relatives and supporters of Maute rebels may be in Metro Manila but any threat they pose has been considered by the police.
“So how safe is Metro Manila in the light of that information?” Castelo asked.
Albayalde said arrests of suspected Maute backers have been made and that intelligence operations are in high gear to determine if remnants are in Metro Manila.
“It (Metro Manila) is still safe because of number one, our usual cooperation with the other intelligence units. We were able to arrest supporters of Maute, we were able to arrest suspected ASG during the ASEAN in Culiat, Quezon City. So this indicates meron naman talagang….we cannot deny anymore,” said Albayalde.
The PNP official assured solons that more security personnel would be deployed during the Christmas season while intelligence activities would be increased to address any security threat.
Pressed by Castelo to confirm that if some Maute relatives are indeed in Metro Manila, Albayalde replied in the affirmative.
The police official stressed that even before the Marawi siege, the police were able to identify the Maute relatives and conducted profiling on them. He said most of the relatives are legitimate entrepreneurs.
“Halos lahat naman po sa kanila ay legitimate businessmen. At wala naman po tayong nakita na ginagawa nilang hindi maganda. They’ve been here for so many years already,” said Albayalde.
For Manila, Albayalde said the support of the Muslim community has made security operations easier to carry out.