Unverified reports about an Egyptian couple now roaming Sulu and planning to conduct bomb attacks upon instructions of Islamic State terrorists are doing the public more harm than good, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday.
Aside from causing undue alarm, the DND chief said the frequent release of such unverified reports have the tendency to make people skeptical and could make them ignore legitimate information on such matter.
“It is unverified news like this that unduly alarm the public. The downside is that if this happens often enough na hindi naman totoo (that it is not true), time will come when the people become inured to the news and will not believe even if it is true. It’s like the story of the boy who cried wolf,” Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.
In a related development:
The Philippine National Police has cited the need for lawmakers to understand the need to support measures that will enhance its capability to secure the country against the threat of terrorism.
PNP chief Oscar Albayalde said this after President Rodrigo Duterte asked the police and the military to be prepared for “dangerous times ahead”.
Citing the case of the first suicide bombing perpetrated by a Filipino in Sulu last June 28, the PNP chief said he had earlier warned Congress to prepare for these situations.
“I have been telling that [scenario] to Congress that we really have to prepare for this. I think no less than the President said that there are dangerous times ahead it’s because he foresees these kinds of global terrorism will not end in few years time,” Albayalde told reporters on the sidelines of a gun show in Mandaluyong City.
Earlier, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it had yet to receive information regarding the Egyptian terror couple.
“We have no information on the alleged Egyptian couple in cahoots with local terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group in IED [improvised explosive device] explosions in Sulu [as what was reportedly revealed by an academic analyst on terrorism],” AFP spokesperson Marine Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo announced.
Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism head Rommel Banlaoi claimed that the two are already in the country and these individuals are linked to the Indonesians responsible for the bomb attack at the Jolo Cathedral bombing last January.
He added the couple is in the Philippines to conduct “intermittent bombing operations.”
“We are in the process of pursuing leads to the perpetrators of the IED explosions in Sulu and Basilan. But we have no report so far pointing to the participation of such Egyptian couple,” Arevalo stressed.
The AFP spokesperson said the military will continue to collaborate with other agencies of government, the local government, and local residents”•to include private individuals”•to punctuate the need for united efforts to prevent radicalism and counter violent extremism.
The country’s top cop said certain measures to improve the country’s response to terrorism was up for Congress to act on.
“We need a lot of equipment and even the laws, these need to be amended for it to be applicable to the present situation. There is need to amend especially the Human Security Act and the [National] ID system. There are various surveillance equipment. Many are offering that we really have to determine what do we need,” Albayalde said.
Albayalde said the PNP and AFP could not afford yet to improve on its surveillance capabilities because it is costly, for “political reasons” and because of the law which protects the people’s privacy.
Once amended, the country’s top cop said the Human Security Act could also boost the law enforcer’s surveillance capability and anti-terrorism and insurgency operations.
Since Duterte’s assumption in 2016, the PNP has been provided with not just operational requirements but also morale and welfare services, which have improved living standards of uniformed personnel and their families.
“Over the last three years, the PNP has been able to keep up with our modernization and development plan with the procurement of more and better equipment and recruitment of more personnel,” PNP spokesperson, Col. Bernard Banac said.
“Between now and three years hence, the PNP is in a better position to perform its law enforcement and public safety mandate through enhanced operational capability,” he added.
The June 28 incident is the third of its kind in Mindanao with the first in a military checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan on July 31, 2018, killing 10 people.
The second was in a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu which killed 20 persons, including the alleged suicide bombers, last Jan. 27.