Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Nes­tle L. Semilla RE­PORTER

The po­lice in Cen­tral Visayas raised an alert sta­tus in the re­gion in the wake of the sight­ing of a group of armed men in Gui­hulng an City in Ne­gro s Ori­en­tal, even as po­lice and mil­i­tary au­thor­i­ties in Cen­tral Visayas and Ne­gros Is­land Re­gion (NIR) urged the pub­lic to stay calm but vig­i­lant.

The Po­lice Re­gional Of­fice in Cen­tral Visayas (PRO-7) is now in close com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the po­lice in the NIR after al­most two dozen armed men were sighted in Gui­hul­gan City, ac­cord­ing to Chief Supt. Noli Tal­iño.

Tal­iño, PRO-7 di­rec­tor, said the in­tel­li­gence units of Cen­tral Visayas is co­or­di­nat­ing with their coun­ter­part in the NIR to val­i­date the threat and en­sure these armed men will not cross to Cebu.

Ne­gros Ori­en­tal used to be part of Cen­tral Visayas (Re­gion-7) while Ne­gros Oc­ci­den­tal be­longed to Western Visayas (Re­gion 6) un­til the two provinces on Ne­gros Is­land were cre­ated as a sep­a­rate re­gion in 2015.

“Naka-alert tayo (We are on alert),” Tal­iño told CEBU DAILY NEWS yes­ter­day.

Tal­iño added they were also help­ing the po­lice in NIR in val­i­dat­ing the sight­ings of the armed men, whom he sus­pected were com­mu­nist gueril­las.

Tal­iño be­lieved the armed men are New Peo­ple'’ Army (NPA) rebels and not mem­bers of ter­ror­ist groups like Abu Sayyaf.

“I can­not speak (whether it’s re­ally NPA or ASG) since sa other re­gion yan. Pero hindi ito ASG. Hindi ako nanini­wala na Abu Sayyaf to,” Tal­iño said.

(I can­not speak whether it’s re­ally NPA or ASG since it’s in an­other re­gion. But this is not ASG [Abu Sayyaf Group]. I don’t be­lieve it’s Abu Sayyaf.)

Still, he said PRO-7 is study­ing all in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the armed men who were re­ported to have landed on board pump boats in Barangay Basak of Gui­hul­ngan City on Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

The group was re­ported to have headed to­wards the hin­ter­land vil­lages of the city after ask­ing di­rec­tion from a res­i­dent who, in turn, im­me­di­ately re­ported the in­ci­dent to the city po­lice.

Too close to Cebu

Tal­iño said they are closely mon­i­tor­ing the sight­ing since the south­ern part of main­land Cebu is just an hour away from Gui­hul­ngan City.

Tal­iño stressed the po­lice in Cen­tral Visayas are also well trained in han­dling this kind of in­for­ma­tion be­cause all po­lice of­fi­cers — from the pro­vin­cial direc­tors down to the last sta­tion-level chief — have been in­structed since last year to keep mon­i­tor­ing their ar­eas of re­spon­si­bil­ity for pos­si­ble en­try of ban­dit or rebel groups.

Tal­iño said they also learned a lot in terms of in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing and com­bat tac­tics after over a month of fight­ing the ASG in Bo­hol province along­side the mil­i­tary.

And with that ex­pe­ri­ence, Tal­iño said he was con­fi­dent that ter­ror­ist groups can­not eas­ily en­ter Cebu.

“Es­pe­cially itong nang­yari sa Bo­hol, in­or­ga­nize natin hangang barangay, hangang purok nga sa Bo­hol. Si­nasabi natin sa ibang probin­siya (Cebu and Siqui­jor) mag­mon­i­tor sa kani­lang area at ma­gre­port kaa­gad. Yun ang paraan natin,” Tal­iño said.

(Es­pe­cially with what hap­pened in Bo­hol, we or­ga­nize com­mu­ni­ties to work with the po­lice down to the vil­lage and even sub-vil­lage lev­els. We told the other provinces — Cebu and Siqui­jor — to mon­i­tor their ar­eas and they should re­port im­me­di­ately any sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­i­ties.)

Visayas still safe

Col. Medel Aguilar, Cent­com as­sis­tant chief of the Uni­fied Com­mand staff for Civil Mil­i­tary Op­er­a­tions, asked the pub­lic not to panic about the sight­ing of armed men in Ne­gros Ori­en­tal.

He said that the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) and the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) are help­ing each other in se­cur­ing the com­mu­ni­ties.

“Our peo­ple need not worry about the re­ported pres­ence of armed men,” Aguilar said.

Even as the AFP is tak­ing ac­tion to val­i­date the in­for­ma­tion, Aguilar added they are thank­ful to res­i­dents who keep shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about the pres­ence of sus­pi­cious per­sons and ac­tiv­i­ties in their com­mu­ni­ties.

On Wed­nes­day, within hours after the sight­ing of armed men in Gui­hul­gan, the 2nd Ne­gros Is­land Ge­o­graph­i­cal Bat­tal­ion was re­ac­ti­vated.

But Aguilar said it was just co­in­ci­dence that when they re­ac­ti­vated the bat­tal­ion, armed men were sighted in Gui­hul­ngan.

The bat­tal­ion in­volved 600 per­son­nel com­posed of el­e­ments from the mil­i­tary, mem­bers of the Cit­i­zen Armed Force Ge­o­graph­i­cal Unit (Cafgu) and re­servist who would be de­ployed in NIR to fight in­sur­gency, said Aguilar.

“This is our strat­egy ad­just­ment. We are max­i­miz­ing our force mul­ti­pli­ers,” Aguilar said.


Tal­iño, on the other hand, said that the travel ad­vi­sory is­sued by the United Kin­dom (UK) last week­end was not re­lated to the sight­ings of armed men in Gui­hul­ngan.

Last week, the British Em­bassy in Manila is­sued a travel ad­vi­sory warn­ing their ci­ti­zens to avoid go­ing to South­ern Cebu, specif­i­cally in the towns of Ba­dian and Os­lob, due to al­leged ter­ror threats.

Gui­hul­ngan City is just across Cebu’s coastal towns of Du­man­jug and Pi­na­munga­jan, both of which are about two hours away from Ba­dian and Os­lob.

“Wala kam­ing nakik­i­tang re­la­tion­ship doon sa Gui­hul­ngan dun sa travel ad­vi­sory na pinal­abas sa south­ern Cebu,” Tal­iño said.

(We don’t see any re­la­tion of Gui­hul­ngan to the travel ad­vi­sory against south­ern Cebu.)

Tal­iño as­sured that south­ern Cebu is still be­ing se­cured by the lo­cal tourist po­lice and by Task Force Cebu, which is com­pose of mil­i­tary forces and per­son­nel from the Philip­pine Coast Guard.

But the po­lice will not take lightly the ad­vi­sory is­sued by the United King­dom, stressed Tal­iño.

He said that even if se­cu­rity mea­sures are in place in south­ern Cebu, they will keep on check­ing and val­i­dat­ing the ba­sis for the travel ad­vi­sory is­sued by the British Em­bassy.

The sight­ing of about 20 armed per­sons in Gui­hul­ngan, who are be­lieved to be com­mu­nist gueril­las, came just five days after UK is­sued the travel ad­vi­sory.

On the other hand, within two days after the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Manila is­sued a travel alert over pos­si­ble ter­ror at­tacks in Cebu and Bo­hol last month, 11 ASG mem­bers ar­rived in Barangay Napo in In­a­bangga town of Bo­hol on April 10.

All of the ASG mem­bers who en­tered Bo­hol were killed in sep­a­rate op­er­a­tions, the last two of whom were killed last Mon­day on Pan­gan­gan Is­land of Calape town.

Vig­i­lance mat­ters

Mean­while, Cebu Pro­vin­cial Po­lice Of­fice (CPPO) di­rec­tor Se­nior Supt. Eric Noble said they are closely mon­i­tor­ing Cebu’s coastal ar­eas as those armed men sighted on Ne­gros Is­land might at­tempt to cross to Cebu.

He said he has also di­rected chiefs of po­lice to im­me­di­ately alert the CPPO about any in­for­ma­tion in­volv­ing pres­ence of armed men in their ar­eas.

Noble said they par­tic­u­larly pay­ing at­ten­tion to the south­ern Cebu towns that are fac­ing Ne­gros Is­land, such as As­turias, Balam­ban, Du­man­jug, Moal­boal and all other towns in be­tween the cities of Toledo and Car­car.

Noble, in his re­cent meet­ings with chiefs of po­lice in Cebu’s south­ern area, al­ways em­pha­sized their need to re­main vig­i­lant and never take for granted ev­ery in­for­ma­tion re­layed to them by res­i­dents, no mat­ter how triv­ial it may seemed.

Noble added they are on height­ened alert sta­tus but still on nor­mal duty sit­u­a­tion, which means that days off or va­ca­tions of po­lice­men have not been can­celed./


TOURISM IS BACK. After state forces elim­i­nated all 11 Abu Sayyaf ban­dits who en­tered Bo­hol in April, tourists have re­turned to Bo­hol, like this group of visi­tors who went up this hill in Barangay Con­cep­cion of Danao town to wit­ness the “Sea of Clouds.” How­ever, the alert sta­tus re­mains high in Bo­hol, Cebu and the rest of Cen­tral Visayas and Ne­gros Is­land Re­gion due to the sight­ing of armed men in Gui­hul­ngan City, Ne­gros Ori­en­tal.



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