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AFP response force to remain in Metro

MANILA, Philippines – Some 1,500 troops have been placed on standby in Metro Manila to respond to any emergency even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) lowered the alert level which was raised last week to prepare for anti-government demonstrations.

The National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM) will maintain the large “maneuver force” due to the continuing security threats in Metro Manila, officials said.

Capt. Carlo Ferrer, spokesman for NCRCOM, said while the alert level has been lowered, they are keeping a standby force as the military continuously monitors plans of terrorists to stage attacks by taking advantage of anti-government protests.

He clarified that so far the terrorist plots have not yet been validated, but military units in Metro Manila will be prepared for possible attacks.

“Our pro-active stance is part of our duty to secure the NCR. What is being validated is whether these will actually be conducted or whether they (terrorists) are already in the NCR,” he said.

The NCRCOM preparations include efforts to counter any terrorist attack in Metro Manila and also to stop any attempt to topple the Arroyo administration.

The command had augmented its forces by deploying three battalions of soldiers from units assigned near Metro Manila, in preparation for last Friday’s interfaith rally by religious and cause -oriented groups calling for the resignation of President Arroyo over allegations of massive corruption in her government.

The troops were backed by more than a dozen armored personnel carriers.

Some sectors have criticized the military and police for baring alleged plans of terrorists to stage attacks during the protest actions to prevent people from joining.

But the AFP said it was not meant to be a scare tactic, as there were indeed reports of such a plot.

Ferrer said even the communist New People’s Army earlier called on its forces to stage attacks to hasten the downfall of the Arroyo administration.

There were even reports that disgruntled elements in the military were prepared to withdraw support from the chain of command, although this has been denied by AFP and defense officials.

The NCRCOM had earlier mobilized more than 3,000 troops in Metro Manila who were placed on red alert status as part of the administration’s precautionary measures against any attempt to destabilize the government, before the 22nd anniversary of EDSA 1 People Power revolution last Feb. 25.

The soldiers were backed by two Scorpion light tanks, dozens of armored personnel carriers (APCs) and several Humvee combat vehicles with machineguns.

The police force in Metro Manila under the National Capital Region Police Office was also placed on heightened alert to prepare for possible violence that could erupt from the protest actions.

More police checkpoints were set up and a high level of security was maintained in vital installations in the metropolis.

During last Friday’s interfaith rally there were reports that some segments of the military were planning to break from the chain of command and were just waiting for critical mass before they joined the demonstrators in the protest action in Makati.

The police said 15,000 gathered in the streets while rally organizers claimed that more than 70,000 participated.

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