US military interest behind terror scenario in Davao

Jun. 30, 2014

DAVAO CITY — A United States intelligence group based in Mindanao has reportedly spotted a new “terror threat” that is targeting Davao region and other key cities in the island.

This prompted the national government to alert last week Davao City officials to take the report seriously and enforce security measures.

But activist groups doubted the report saying this could be a prelude to establish US military facilities including drone operations as contained in the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Last Sunday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas met with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to outline security measures in the region to include placing Davao City under heightened alert.

Roxas appointed Duterte as chair of the Davao Region’s Peace and Order Council (RPOC), a post the mayor held in the past.

Duterte told reporters later that the alert was pressed on him personally by President Benigno Aquino III to take seriously a report by the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P) on the new terror threat.

The JSOTF-P is a US military group based in Zamboanga City monitoring terror-threat groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah after the events of 9-11.

A report from GMA news cited Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao spokesperson Captain Alberto Caber that the threat is linked to  a group led by Abdul Basit Usman, a bomb expert linked to Jemaah Islamiyah.
Usman was captured but escaped in 2002, he was again arrested and last June 11 escaped again from a military operation.

Caber said Usman’s group would possibly stage “bomb attacks” against the military or public places including Davao City to divert attention.

But the activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance or Bayan) believed the threat could be staged to justify the implementation of EDCA.

“Security has been heightened since the creation of Task Force Davao (in 2003).  We fear that the Aquino government is creating a scenario to justify the implementation of EDCA,” she said.

The EDCA was signed last April 28 that opened up the whole country for deployment of US military personnel, equipment and facilities; Bayan and their allied Makabayan Coalition in Congress tried to block the agreement and has raised its constitutionality at the Supreme Court.

Duterte mentioned again last Sunday there were offers by a retired general to have the city lease the former Davao airport in Sasa for the US military drone operations, which he again refused.

“I turned down the proposal from this retired general on using the old airport. I told him that is difficult as I will not allow this airport to be used to attack
Filipinos,” he told reporters.

The mayor exposed this proposal last year when two explosions hit movie houses simultaneously in two malls.  He blamed the US meddling in the city and assured the public he would refuse their requests.

“The purpose of drones is not just spying, they are armed with weapons, as what happened in other countries” he said.

Duazo said the threats could possibly be a move to pressure Duterte, who is rumored to be Roxas’ rival in the bid for the presidency in 2016 and has made popular calls to shut down government institutions involved in corruption and to engage with peace talks with the left and other Moro secessionist group.

She appealed to Duterte and to the local government to affirm their stand not to allow US military or drone presence in the city, reminding them of a pledge in 2005 with district councilors and barangay leaders to oppose US military exercises in the city.

Duazo also recalled the 2002 hotel bomb incident involving suspected US-Central Intelligence Agency operative Michael Meiring, saying US intelligence could be conditioning this scenario again.

Last year, a series of bombings hit three cities in Mindanao that baffled investigators as to who were behind the attacks or whether the attacks were related.

On July 26, a bombed ripped a restaurant chain in a mall of Cagayan de Oro that killed eight people.  On August 5, a bomb exploded at a busy intersection in Cotabato City that also killed eight.  Last September 17, the moviehouse explosions hit Davao but no one was hurt.

After these incidents, Roxas and state security officials called cluster meetings with Mindanao local officials to discuss a new terror group called KFR operating in Mindanao, but they did not disclose much to the media.

Meanwhile, the city would enforce increases presence of 1,000 police personnel and 350 members of the TFD.  Roxas is also mobilizing the barangay peace keeping action team, with some 200 additional volunteers and tanods (watchers) to act as informants for the police. (

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