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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

President Aquino assesses Zambo security, provides aid to blast victims

By Dominic I. Sanchez

ZAMBOANGA CITY – President Benigno S. Aquino III visited the city Sunday (Jan. 25) to personally assess the security situation in the city and to provide assistance to victims of last Friday’s blast in the premises of the Guiwan bus terminal.

The President arrived past 10 a.m. at the Edwin Andrews Air Base (EAAB) together with Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad.

Upon arriving in Zamboanga City, he immediately met with Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, Congressman Celso Lobregat, Congresswomen Lilia Nuño and other local officials at the EAAB VIP lounge. The President was briefed on the recent security situation since Friday’s blast that killed two people and wounded 52 others.

Justice for the victims

After an approximately three-hour briefing, the President and his contingent proceeded to the blast site in front of the Guiwan terminal where he personally inspected the devastated Fantacy bar, as well as the damages to property within the proximity. He stayed at the blast site for about fifteen minutes before proceeding to the Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital where some blast victims were recuperating.

President Aquino also visited the Western Mindanao Medical Center (WMMC), Zamboanga Doctors’ Hospital (ZDH), Ciudad Medical Zamboanga (CMZ) and the Zamboanga City Medical Center (ZCMC) where other patients were confined. Some are under intensive care.

The President dropped by La Merced Funeral Homes where the bodies of the two fatalities Reynaldo Tan and Dennis Valiente lie in state. He promised the victims that the case will be resolved immediately and that justice will be served to the perpetrators. Meanwhile, Mayor Climaco-Salazar shared that President Aquino provided additional financial assistance to the victims on top of the assistance provided by the government earlier.

Very tight security

Security was very tight, as members of the media were only allowed to cover the President’s visit from the outside of the establishments that he visited. The onlookers, controlled by policemen, were anxiously watching the President a few meters away. Snipers were dispatched on rooftops.

A signal jammer, mounted on a pick-up truck that was part of the President’s convoy caused mobile phone and radio interference within the nearby proximity.

Late afternoon, President Aquino stopped at the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center, where he personally saw the situation of the inmates there, including the 57 alleged Abu Sayyaf members. Jail visitors were prevented from entering since early morning for security reasons.

Last week, a jailbreak attempt was prevented after jail guards discovered weapons and ammunition were smuggled to the inmates in a concrete stove.

Blast linked to Abu Sayyaf foiled jailbreak

On Saturday (Jan. 24), Mayor Climaco-Salazar said that the blast was related to Monday’s foiled jailbreak attempt. She added that the blast was a diversionary attack to disturb the peace, even if their attempt to escape from the city jail was already foiled.

However, as of press time, there has still been no pronouncement by the local police on the cause of the explosion in Guiwan Friday. However, reports alleged that it was an explosive device, although viral photos and videos of the incident showed a car parked in Fantacy was already in flames prior to the blast.

“The police still have no official report if the explosion was caused by a car bomb,” said Mayor Climaco-Salazar in a radio interview in RMN Monday morning. “They are still investigating.”

ASG inmates to be transferred

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima is currently working to fast track the transfer of the high-risk inmates at the city jail, according to Mayor Climaco-Salazar.

Meanwhile, the President has ordered for the creation of a multi-sectoral, inter-agency body that will assist the local government to enhance security measures in the city. DILG Secretary Roxas shall issue a memorandum for this purpose immediately.

“The coordinating body will compose of maritime (police), coast guard, marines, navy and other sectors,” said Mayor Climaco-Salazar.

The President departed after another closed-door meeting with government officials at around 6 p.m.