During the special session of the City Peace and Order Council Monday at the City Hall, Mayor Sara Duterte expressed concern whether authorities manning the checkpoints know how to profile and identify suspected terrorists.
By JOHN RIZLE L. SALIGUMBA
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – With the entry of Jemaah Islamiyah member Mohammad Noor Fikrie Bin Abud Kahar in the city, a question has been raised: had the police been too complacent with the security?
Kahar was allegedly able to bring a 60 mm mortar with a cellphone detonator despite the various checkpoints put up within and outside Davao City.
“The action of the police and military is limited when it comes to checkpoints,” noted Davao City Police Office Chief Col. Ronald Dela Rosa, though, the Task Force Davao (TFD) knows how to conduct checkpoints through the “plain view doctrine” and, in extreme situation, would unload passengers and check the vehicles.
During the special session of the City Peace and Order Council (CPOC) Monday at the City Hall, Mayor Sara Duterte expressed concern whether authorities manning the checkpoints know how to profile and identify suspected terrorists.
TFD spokesperson Lt. Col. Gerry Besana said they only check people randomly “to avoid discrimination.”
“It’s not discrimination if it involves security and safety,” Duterte said. She added, “Your people should know what to look for. You have to think like a terrorist.”
Duterte told responsible agencies and units of the CPOC that crisis-management should have been activated the moment the intelligence information was known and should have coordinated in clearing the civilians.
Duterte added that the city should implement its “integrated security plan” because “terrorists would strike especially when we are not ready.”
The City’s 911, she said, was only made aware of the incident when they responded to a call that there was a riot.
Cautious police operations
Dela Rosa said Kahar was initially spotted by an intelligence unit at the old Sampaguita Inn in downtown Davao. Later, the suspect was seen booked at the new inn’s building, a few meters away, with a woman identified as one Anabelle Lee.
Dela Rosa said, that time, he decided not to conduct an assault operation using the Swat (Special Weapons and Tactics) team. “Baka pag pasukin natin, pasabugin sa loob ng kwarto, marami ang madadamay,” he said.
He added he convinced the hotel management instead to go to the suspect’s room and tell them that the inn “reserves the right to deny entry for any undesirable client” but the couple was said to have refused the warning. Later the inn management told the couple that if the latter won’t come out, the police will be called. It was then that Lee said they will go down.
Dela Rosa said he immediately identified the couple when he saw Lee in her “ninja” garb, carrying a backpack suspected to be loaded with a bomb. He then immediately grabbed Lee while another officer went for Kahar.
“You want the bomb? You want the bomb? I will explode it! Shoot me!,” Kahar allegedly shouted as he showed a blinking mobile phone.
“I could’ve shot him immediately,” Dela Rosa said. But he, like the other police officers, intelligence operatives and the people in the lobby, rushed towards the door.
Dela Rosa recounted that Kahar was able to go out the hotel holding Lee close to him. But the suspect, he added, later let go of Lee and carried with him the backpack and the mobile phone as he ran towards the People’s Park.
Unable to enter the crowded park where the guards where already alerted, Kahar ran instead towards the nearby Apo View Hotel. It was then that a police operative shot and killed him.
Better alive than dead
“Maybe next time, because you have a Swat, just severely injure (the suspect). A dead person is useless, we couldn’t ask him questions and we end up asking what-ifs,” Duterte told Col. Dela Rosa.
For the mayor, more information could have been extracted had the police not killed Kahar.
She also told the police that “(i)t would have been better if you have cleared the area. Nakalimutan na yung civilians na hindi natin nasecure kaagad.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)