DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday linked two recent bomb attacks to the terrorist Maute group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, saying they had formed a tactical alliance to spread terror.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Rizal Day commemoration at Luneta, Lorenzana said the explosion in Leyte Thursday could have been carried out to divert the government’s intensified military operations against these groups.
“We have this suspicion that the Maute and the BIFF, had this sort of an alliance. Maybe they’re sharing the technology in bomb making,” Lorenzana told the Manila Standard.
“It’s a tactical alliance wherein the two groups are helping each other,” he added.
Lorenzana said materials used in making the improvised exposive devices could have come from the BIFF.
“It’s not farfetched because their home bases–Lanao and Maguindanao are very near. Some members of the Maute group are from Maguindanao, so that’s the connection maybe,” he added.
The Maute group was said to be behind the Davao City night market bombing last September that killed 15 people and wounded 70 others.
President Rodrigo Duterte linked these attacks and the Christmas Eve bombing in Midsayap to the Islamic State.
“The ISIS seems to be everywhere. Samal, there was an explosion. In Midsayap, while the priest was giving a sermon on extrajudicial killings, his church was bombed,” Duterte told an online news service.
When pressed if the Midsayap bombings were connected to ISIS, Duterte linked them also to the “Davao bombing.”
Earlier, however, Duterte had said that “turf wars” between “Moro people” belonging to rival drug syndicates were behind the recent explosions in Hilongos, Leyte and Midsayap, North Cotabato.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the latest blasts.
“I hope it will not get out of control. I had conference with top guys of the government, military. I saw them with the police. You have to not only appear strong, you have to be strong because this is another problem, it’s no joke,” he said.
Lorenzana affirmed that the recent attacks may be part of diversionary tactics by local terror groups, as government troops continue their offensive against those who have supposedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, such as the Maute group, and the Abu Sayyaf.
In a separate interview, the President noted that it could be possible that the terrorist operations could be directed from “inside jail cells.”
Lorenzana also said the blasts may still be related to the drug war being waged by the President.
He added that both the Maute group and the Abu Sayaff were capable of doing harm “anywhere in the Philippines.”
“Especially now that we’re heading to the New Year,” he added.
On Thursday, Duterte said he did not intend to declare Martial Law, saying the state of lawless violence was enough.
Duterte said it was Senator Panfilo Lacson who spoke to him about possibility of Martial Law that triggered “loose talk.”
“If anything could go wrong in Mindanao, Lacson said, it would go wrong. Murphy’s Law. If it gets worse, tell Rody, suggest it to the President, to declare Martial Law for Mindanao,” Duterte told GMA-7 in a live television interview.
Following an explosion that ripped through a popular night market in his hometown Davao City, Duterte had earlier declared a “state of lawless violence” in the country which would allow the increase of military and police presence throughout the country to combat not just terror threats, but also to step up his campaign against illegal drugs and to curb the recent rise in extrajudicial killings.
The President had earlier said that he wanted the constitutional provisions on the declaration of Martial Law relaxed to make it easier for the chief executive to impose it.
This triggered heated criticism from his opponents, including Vice President Leni Robredo.