Fears over the possibility that martial law would again be declared arose last Monday after a bomb was found near the American embassy.
Some people, including opposition lawmakers, quickly associated the US embassy incident with the ongoing military operations against the Maute Group and dreaded the thought that this could be used as an excuse by the government to declare martial law.
Director-General Ronald dela Rosa, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief, said the improvised explosive device (IED) found in a trash bin near the embassy might be connected to the Maute Group in Lanao del Sur, who occupied the abandoned town hall of Butig along with several houses and buildings since last week.
Government forces continued with ground-and-air assaults against some 300 Maute members. At least 13 soldiers were wounded in the military operations as of Monday morning.
The PNP also confirmed that the IED found near the embassy has the same design and composition as the one used in the September bombing of a night market in Davao City.
Authorities said someone threw the package from a cab at 2 a.m. before it was found by a street sweeper at past 6 a.m.
Dela Rosa called on the people not to panic, saying the government would not use an incident that would cause fear and undue harm to declare martial law.
He also made certain that the PNP is on top of the situation, theorizing that the incident near the embassy is merely the Maute Group’s diversionary tactic.
However, the incident clearly showed that the claws of terrorism have already reached Manila.
Security should naturally be beefed up especially in crowded places, beginning with the revival of checkpoints around Metro Manila.
The presence of uniformed personnel should be increased in malls, airports, seaports, bus and transport terminals.
The screening of persons and baggage should likewise be heightened.
Although the bomb scare at the embassy might not be used to declare martial law, the element of fear it created in the hearts of the people could not be erased in the blink of an eye.
Security is now an issue. Are we safe in the hands of our leaders? Is the PNP capable of protecting our people? Are anti-Duterte forces using terrorism to bring down the government? I can just imagine the tragedy had that bomb exploded.
* * *
SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email email@example.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column athttp://www.tempo.com.ph/category/opinion/firing-line/ (Robert B. Roque, Jr.)