By Martin Sadongdong
There was no verified terror attack in cities with business centers and churches in Northern Luzon, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) clarified Monday.
Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, issued the clarification amid the leak of an alert memo issued to intelligence units in Northern Luzon.
Over the weekend, an alert memo issued to the intelligence units of the AFP-Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) showed they were directed to conduct heightened intelligence monitoring to verify a report about a “Crusader City” with business centers and “Crusader Churches” in their area of operation that are “being targeted for terror attack.”
The alert memo, issued on Friday and signed by Colonel Glenn Celebrado, assistant chief of the unified command staff (ACUCS) for intelligence, was apparently leaked and has since made the rounds of social media.
A crusader city is a term used by Islamic State (IS) in describing a “target area” to fuel what they call “Bandar Crusade” or a supposed “war between Muslims and Christians,” according to the alert memo.
Meanwhile, a crusader church is the IS’ generic term for all historic Catholic Churches, it added.
The military in the region was ordered to conduct heightened intelligence monitoring which fit the description of areas in the intelligence information including Laoag City; Vigan City; Manaoag in Pangasinan; and Tuguegarao City among others.
“The document is genuine but the intent for issuing it is primarily for verification as to the reliability of the source and the veracity of the information,” Arevalo said.
Lieutenant General Ramiro Manuel Rey, commander of the AFP-Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), echoed Arevalo’s pronouncements, and said the intelligence information turned out to be “negative” upon validation.
“It’s authentic [memo]. It’s raw information given to our intelligence unit that’s why we want to verify it. It’s not an advisory, it was issued to confirm the authenticity of the information we received,” he explained.
“We advised our intel [intelligence] to confirm the report but walang kwan (there’s no truth to it). Kumbaga (It’s a) raw information,” he noted.
Rey further stated that it was a normal process within the organization to issue an alert memo if they receive intelligence information concerning the public’s safety.
“It’s a normal process that when we receive an information, you’ll get that [alert memo],” he said.
“Upon confirmation of the information, that’s the only time that we will make an announcement to the public,” he added.
Arevalo appealed to the public to remain calm but vigilant, and be actively involved in monitoring and reporting to authorities any suspicious people or activities in their communities.
“Terrorism will prosper only if we let our guards down,” he emphasized.