Alleged mission - kidnappings: Sayyaf bandits in Dumaguete?

Michael Vencynth H. Braga (The Freeman) - September 25, 2015 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines -  Heightened security alert remains in place in the entire Central Visayas as well as Negros Oriental after the Philippine Army received reports of a plan by Abu Sayyaf bandits to carry out kidnappings.

During the Regional Peace and Order Council-7 meeting last week at the Cebu Provincial Capitol, Nell Brian Cebrian, operations officer of the 302nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army said they received consecutive reports early this month regarding the plot of a certain bandit leader to kidnap targets in Dumaguete City which prompted the Philippine Army to deploy troops to the area.

He noted that Philippine Navy vessels were already fielded to patrol the waters off the southern portion of Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Panglao Island in Bohol.

“All the necessary requirements to address the security threat have been coordinated with Philippine National Police, together with local government units,” he said.

Colonel Allan Martin, commander of the 302nd Infantry Brigade, said reports also revealed that the bandits are targeting rich foreigners and businessmen in Dumaguete City as it is one of the best retirement places in the world.

“You will find there rich retirees, there is money going around in Dumaguete…We just prepared, we deployed our troops to probable entries, in coordination with PNP and coast guard,” he told reporters.

The Philippine Army, however, has not yet received reports the bandits have entered Dumaguete City.

Martin believes that the group might have diverted target areas, noting the abduction of three foreigners and a Filipina from a resort in Samal Island, Davao del Norte, last week.

“The possibility (of entry to Dumaguete) is there. That’s why we always remind our troops not to let down your guard. Di puwede mag-relax ta… We hope na we were able to prevent them from entering Dumaguete. We will continue to be vigilant and protect the tourist destinations in Region 7 from kidnapping,” Martin said.

He added that Cebu, being an insurgency-free province, is safe from the Abu Sayyaf, but he urged public and local government units to continue coordinating with the authorities and implement deterrent measures.

“If they give us the right information, real time, we will act appropriately,” he assured.

The Philippine Army earlier cautioned against circulating alarming text messages so as not to cause undue alarm especially among tourists visiting the province.

One of the text messages, supposedly from the intelligence community, disclosed that at around 10 p.m. last September 9, “the group of Muamar Askali, with about ten armed followers, was seen in the municipality of Omar in Sulu.”

The text message further read that the group was planning to conduct kidnapping activity in Dumaguete, and that they will travel about “800 osuk bato” (kilometer in the Tausug dialect) and will depart anytime from that specified town in Sulu.

Some lines in the same text message were in the Tausug dialect, which appeared to be discussing the distance to Dumaguete and the supposed armed men’s target.

Another text message mentioned the exact information but was differently worded and came from another intelligence source.

Whether true or not, Martin assured that they are prepared at all times to confront and address any security threats.

Negros Oriental has also created a joint task force headed by Governor Roel Degamo for a well-coordinated response by all law enforcement agencies involved.

In the case of the Philippine Army, he said they have already identified areas where they will deploy personnel in coordination with the Philippine National Police since they cannot guard the whole coastline.

“We are not just guarding Dumaguete. We will be guarding the whole coastline in the southern tip of Negros Island, that will be up to Sipalay (Negros Occidental),” Martin said.

Resort owners were also summoned and told of the supposed kidnapping plot. One resort owner in Dauin, Negros Oriental, reported seeing a black sedan stop near his resort thrice but nobody got off.

Senior Superintendent Dionard Carlos, OIC provincial police director, said he has already alerted all the police chiefs in the province, while Dumaguete City police chief, Superintendent Jovito Atanacio, said he has also alerted his men, especially those in the intelligence section.

All security forces in Negros Oriental are attending a two-day workshop Thursday and Friday as part of the creation of the Joint Task Force to define the roles of each agency in the different task groups and how they will respond to or address various threat groups and situations, he added. — with Judy Flores Partlow/BRP (FREEMAN)

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