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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Threat or no threat, armored vehicles here to stay - WesMinCom
By Dominic I. Sanchez

ZAMBOANGA CITY, January 21 (PIA) – There is no need to be alarmed over the presence of armored vehicles that are currently patrolling the city, as this is one of the strategies by local authorities to help ensure that peace and order is maintained, amidst rumors regarding terror threats here.

“We do not want to alarm people,” said Mayor Beng Climaco during a regular press briefing held Monday (January 18) in City Hall, citing that it was the decision of Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) chief Gen. Mayoralgo Dela Cruz to deploy troops and armored vehicles in the city and the communities for regular patrol.

Accordingly, Gen. Dela Cruz ordered his men to patrol the city “whether there is a threat or not” to ensure that peace and order is maintained.

Last week, residents have been receiving text messages regarding an alleged rally planned by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members in the city. As it turned out, MNLF members were in the city en route to Jolo, Sulu for a scheduled meeting with their leaders.

Military officials during a peace and order council meeting Monday confirmed that there was indeed an MNLF plan to stage a so-called “peace rally.” However, as stressed by Climaco, she will not allow the MNLF to conduct any public rallies in the city, since she, as mayor is given this discretion in the interest of the city.

While MNLF officials said that they will abide by the city’s “no permit, no rally” rule, authorities here are nonetheless extra cautious.

Military and police have been continuously monitoring the situation in the different barangays. The Philippine Army’s Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ) for one is conducting 24-hour roving patrols, checkpoints, as well as water and foot patrols. Areas of concern such as the seaport, airport, bus terminal, power plants, gas depots and other vital installations are secured.

Meanwhile, OIC-City Police Director Supt. Luisito Magnaye said that authorities do not discount possibilities of atrocities here, particularly since aside from the MNLF, there are reported presence of the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements in the city.

“Bombings and terror actions could not be discounted,” Magnaye stressed. “The threat remains.”

As this develops, Magnaye urges residents to be doubly vigilant. “There are still factions that could commit atrocities, and we must be alert and vigilant at all times,” he said, all the while reminding the public to report suspicious men, women and even children to police hotline 117.