LEGAZPI CITY, Sept. 3 (PNA) -- An official of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Solcom-AFP) said the suspension of military operations (SOMO) against the communist New People’s Army (NPA) has remained in effect following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a state of lawlessness nationwide on Saturday morning.
“The SOMO will remain in effect,” said Maj. Virgilio J. Perez Jr., chief of Solcom’s public information office, in a press statement issued Saturday.
The communist rebels have declared an indefinite ceasefire following initial peace talks in Oslo, Norway in August between the government panel and the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front.
Perez said the AFP would continue to perform its mandate of protecting the people and the community through the conduct of security operations focused on the “neutralization of threats to national security.”
He identified these threats as the “Abu Sayyaf Group or ASG and other terrorist groups.”
Perez said the AFP would continue to protect the communities and ensure the security of government facilities and flagship projects against any armed attacks or sabotage.
He said they would continue to support law enforcement operations to ensure peace and stability in all areas and the “unhampered social, cultural, religious, political and economic activities in the region.
Reports from the Philippines News Agency (PNA) showed that 15 people had died and 69 were injured in a bomb blast that rocked a city market in Davao City shortly before midnight Friday.
The Department of National Defense had given “full alert” orders to the AFP following the attack that was claimed by the ASG.
Lt.Gen Ferdinand F. Quidilla, commanding general of the AFP-Solcom based in Camp Nakar, Lucena, Quezon, said they had “stepped up their security monitoring and close coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP)” due to the full alert orders.
“AFP-Solcom is vigilant and ready for any eventuality,” Quidilla said in a statement Saturday.
He assured that all forces under his command in the Southern Tagalog and Bicol regions are prepared and ready to undertake tasks to be issued by Mr. Duterte with respect to his declaration of state of lawlessness.
Quidilla called for a public condemnation of the “terroristic acts” that occurred Friday night in Davao City.
He said they were soliciting the support of the peace and order councils in the regions for their quest to have a safe and secured community.
"We call for a sobriety and for the people to remain calm and refrain from any speculations so as not to aggravate the situation" Perez added.
The Solcom also sent its condolences to the families of the victims in the Davao bombing.
Chief Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, head of the Police Regional Office in Bicol (PRO5), has ordered "even the smallest unit--the community police precincts" in the region to be doubly alert for possible attacks, after the President’s declaration of state of lawlessness.
Buenafe’s order followed Mr. Duterte’s directive authorizing the police and military to conduct security searches in cars and frisking of individuals in checkpoints.
He said the “automatic declaration of full alert” includes all the six provincial police offices in the provinces of Albay, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate and Sorsogon.
He directed the police to strengthen and fortify all police stations in the Bicol region’s 108 towns and six cities.
Every police officer must be alert and vigilant," he added.
Buenafe had directed PNP officers to coordinate with all intelligence units of their friendly forces, especially in the AFP , to gather and exchange intelligence reports.
He told all provincial directors, unit commanders and chiefs of police to supervise the conduct of checkpoints in strategic areas and “deployment of police visibility patrols in areas of convergence and vital installations.”
He told them, however, they have to “exercise extreme caution” in conducting the checkpoints.
Sr. Insp. Ma.Luisa Calubaquib, spokesperson of PRO5, said they had sent additional police officers to secure all the seaports, airports, terminals of buses and public utility vehicle, malls, churches, plazas and other public places where people gather in the region.
She said Buenafe had directed also the members of the Joint Provincial Security Coordinating Councils of all six PNP provincial offices to conduct simulation security exercises. (PNA) RMA/GVR/JH/cbd/rsm