Aquino’s ‘target hardening’ action vs. bomb suspects

Aug. 09, 2013

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – The Aquino government knows the bombers and intends to come up with measures such as a reward system to go after the suspects, and “target hardening” action by state security.

In a press interview Thursday at the Mindanao Business Conference in the city, President Benigno Aquino III divulged there were “three threat groups” behind the bombings.

The President said the government has “for a long time… working to neutralize these elements” with “quite a few successes” hinting the threat groups include the Abu Sayyaf Group.

He also said the bombing could probably be made “to ease military pressure against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Force), a group that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and has recently engaged the AFP in Central Mindanao.

Aquino said the bombing “is a desperate act by a small sector dead set against the attainment of peace in Mindanao.”

News reports quoting police intelligence sources cited Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao-Black Flag Movement as the primary suspect in Mindanao bombings.

Aquino also revealed the suspects targeted Davao but backed off due to strict security measures in the city.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was quoted by a news report saying  “Right now, we are talking about target hardening. Meaning, we put high level of security, intelligence operatives.  There is police visibility. There are inspections on suspicious looking people or with suspicious-looking baggage or any article for that matter.”

Meanwhile Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita ‘Ging’ Deles, who also attended the same conference, said on Friday that the groups behind the bombings had “many agenda and many interests coming together.”

Both Deles and Aquino, however, said the incident will not deter the government’s effort in finalizing the peace deal with the MILF.

They both called on Mindanao’s business sector to back the drafting of a Bangsamoro Basic Act and support investments in the soon-to-be crafted Bangsamoro area.

Aquino made a statement to the suspects during his keynote address Thursday, saying “those who want to challenge the authority of the State, you will feel the full brunt, depth, and might of the State’s response. You will not get in the way of the peace and the stability that will help fulfill the potential of Mindanao.”

Earlier, Fr. Eliseo Mercado OMI from Cotabato City posted on his Facebook page, “Government once again tells the people that they would pursue the perpetrators… yet from as far back as I can remember and that is 1965, NO ONE is made responsible for any killing in the place. People learn to live in their insecurities… knowing fully well that all government can do is for the sound bytes.”

InPeace Mindanao, meanwhile, challenged the Aquino government to “to conduct a thorough and scientific investigation into these bombings, leaving no stone unturned such that the possible culpability of state security agents is likewise looked into.” (Tyrone A. Velez,

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