Albayalde: Beefing up anti-terror response a priority

Incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Oscar Albayalde on Thursday said the government remains committed to upgrading the capability of law enforcement agencies to respond to terror threats.

Albayalde made the statement during a field drill at the Araneta Bus Terminal in Quezon City where a simulated terrorist bomb attack and a simulated bus hostage taking was undertaken by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD).

“Sa totoo lang marami pa talaga tayong kailangan and that entails funding naman. Unti-unti, tayo ay nagpapasalamat sa pamahalaan ni Presidente Duterte na talagang very serious din sya dito sa problema on terrorism at unti-unti you could just imagine meron na tayong helicopter and all other equipment na na-procure in preparation or probably for crime prevention yun (Honestly, we still need a lot of equipment but slowly and we are thankful to the government of President Duterte as he is very serious in addressing the terrorism problem and you could just imagine we now have helicopters and all other equipment procured in preparation or probably for crime prevention),” Albayalde said.

Also present in the event were QCPD Director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar and Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista.

Assessing the drill, Albayalde said the units’ response was fairly adequate but added that there is room for improvement such as crowd control.

“Well, generally okay naman. I think the SOP was followed. Meron sigurong mga konti pa to improve and alalahanin natin dito na iba naman talaga nangyayari on the ground, kung ano talaga in reality (It was generally okay. I think the standard operating procedure was followed, we may have few improvements and we should remember what happen on the ground and reality are different),”

Albayalde, who is currently National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director, noted that media practitioners were allowed to go near the bus during the drill — a situation similar to the botched operation during the 2010 Luneta hostage crisis in Rizal Park — when a disgruntled former police officer Rolando Mendoza hijacked a tourist bus.

The rescue conducted by the Manila police resulted in nine fatalities, including the hostage taker.

“We have to be as realistic as possible so we can see our shortcomings like earlier media practitioners were allowed to go near the bus. We also saw that could have been the problem during the Luneta incident on how to handle crowds so every now and then we need intelligent suggestions of everyone. We need to have a fertile imagination to build scenarios and correct possible problems in the future,” he said in Filipino.

Albayalde said allowing media access during actual incidents compromises the public’s safety and the police operation itself.

“We want to avoid a situation where media practitioners are allowed close access to armed suspects who can televise the incident and compromise the operation just like in the Luneta hostage crisis,” Albayalde noted.

The drill started as a series of simulation exercises for Davao police and would be replicated in all police districts in Metro Manila, Albayalde said.

Albayalde will formally replace outgoing PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa on April 18. PNA