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No ASG presence in Metro – military

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it has yet to detect the presence of the Abu Sayyaf Group in Metro Manila despite the arrest of a suspected member in an anti-illegal drug operation at the Salaam Mosque Compound in Quezon City Friday.

In a press conference, Col. Edgard A. Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, said that they have not monitored the presence of the ASG in the metropolis.

“So far sa ating mga reports wala po namang namo-monitor and we hope to keep it that way,” Arevalo said. “At kagaya ng paulit-ulit nating sinasabi, huwag lang iasa sa ating security forces ang lahat ng bagay na iyan because hindi po tayo ganon karami,” he said.

Arevalo said although there are a number of troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines who are helping in the conduct of police checkpoints in key areas in Metro Manila, the help of the public is still needed to arrest any member of the ASG who might want to enter the metropolis.

“I’m referring to the Joint Task Force National Capital Region sa kanilang pagsasagawa ng mga checkpoints, mobile patrols sa kanilang areas of convergence kagaya ng mga malls, LRT terminals, and bus terminals,” Arevalo said. “Hindi po natin kayang bantayan ang bawat sulok ng ating bayan lalo na ang urban areas,” he added.

The Quezon City Police District identified the alleged ASG member as Juraid Sahibbun. He was among 85 persons arrested in the operation at the Salaam Mosque Compound in the morning.

Police are still verifying if Sahibbun is a member of the dreaded bandit group.

Sixty more alleged drug pushers and users were arrested by the QCPD at the Salaam Mosque Compound when the operation resumed Friday evening.

The suspects were engaged in a pot session in an unnumbered house that serves as a drug den when they were arrested.

The drug den was operated by a certain Richard Betchayda, 29, who was also apprehended in the operation. It was only a few meters away from the drug dens earlier raided by the police.

Twenty three sachets of suspected shabu were confiscated from the suspects. Various drug paraphernalia were also found inside the house.

Of the 145 arrested, 110 were men while 23 were women. Three of them were pregnant, police said. Twelve of them were minors, aged 14 to 17, mostly male while only one, the youngest, was a female. Police said the eldest was 59 years old. (FRANCIS T. WAKEFIELD)