Yes to all-out war vs terror groups, but...

January 29, 2019

I join the entire nation and the rest of the international community in mourning the death of 21 people and the wounding of over 100 others as a result of the terror bombing at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu last Sunday. I also fully support President Duterte’s order for an all-out war against terror groups and give justice to the victims.

However, I call on security forces to better be prepared for any similar attacks in the future and to see to it that the public are fully lectured on what they should do in case they happen to be at an explosion site.Since we are no stranger anymore to terror attacks,  let’s follow the ‘run, hide, tell’ advice of foreign counter-terrorism units in the event of a gun attack or a suicide bombing mission.

The way I see it, soldiers who were killed in the 2nd bomb explosion at the entrance of the Jolo Cathedral were simply unaware of the fact that the terrorists could have planted another cellphone-activated  IED and were merely waiting for the opportune time to detonate it. We will also see if the Armed Forces were right in releasing the video and photographs of four teenagers-turned suspects in the bombings.

During the infamous Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, the Boston police, City Hall and the FBI buckled down to work and argued on whether to release the video of the bomber or not. However, the video which was made public days after the attack proved to be instrumental in getting the suspects.

However, there is a very big difference between the Jolo Cathedral and Boston Marathon bombing as I can see it. In the Boston incident, only one person was speaking in behalf of the investigators, nobody else. In short, there is only ‘one voice’ and every else were ordered to shut up.In the Jolo Cathedral bombing, I have been hearing different statements from the AFP and the PNP.

The AFP has been releasing tons of details about the bombing which I think should be kept in secret until all proof and pieces of evidence and witnesses are gathered by investigators. On the other hand, the media is forced to asked the statement of the PNP on the matter. Being veteran investigators, I believe that PNP officials will agree with me that unless all pieces of evidence are at hand, now is not he right time to make conclusions.

What we need right now is for the military and the police to speak in one voice, play like a well-coached champion basketball team and see to it that all questions are already answered before details are released to the media. What we need here are solid pieces of evidence which the PNP will be badly needing in filing criminal charges against the terrorists and ensuring their prosecution to the hilt.

The AFP and the PNP should also step-up their public information campaign on how to spot and prevent smuggling of firearms and IEDs in the country. What we need here is a public that fully knows items which should raise their suspicion not only because of their quantity but because of their characteristics.

All persons responsible for the upkeep of places of convergence like shopping malls, hotels, public utility terminals, Churches and other places of worship as well as school and university campuses must be wary of the fact that law enforcers are not always present in their areas, thus the need for them to do their job.

The public should also be informed about IED indicators as well as any suspicious behavior that should be immediately reported to the nearest police station. Most importantly, everybody must be congnizant of the potential for secondary attacks just lke what happened in Jolo.

There should always be an established response plan in case a suspected IED is found too in order not to create any unnecessary panic. Presence of more plainclothes officers to perform counter-surveillance and identify and report suspicious behaviors should also be a standard in any security planning.

Before i end, i thank God that police were highly-successful in guarding the recent Feast of Black Nazarene  in Quiapo,  the Penafrancia festival in Naga City and the  Sinulug festival in Cebu City. Add to it the PNP’s success in ensuring ‘zero-trouble’ during past major international events in the country. Those successful security measures actually took place in areas outside of Mindanao which has been under martial law over the past two years.