While the threat of terrorism had been greatly reduced with the defeat of the Maute-ISIS Group terrorists in Marawi City, Philippine Army (PA) head Lt. Gen. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista on Tuesday bared the existence of “sleeper cells” in many parts of the country.
“Na-discover namin sa Marawi campaign na merong ISIS ‘sleeper cells’ not only in Mindanao but also in Luzon and Visayas, makikita mo nga dun yung ISIS cells. Dun makikita mo meron sa Baguio, meron sa Dagupan, meron sa Tarlac, Pangasinan. Sa Visayas naman, meron sa Samar, meron sa Cebu and so forth,” he said during the book launch of “Marawi and Beyond: The Joint Task Force Marawi Story” held in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.
And when asked on what types of attacks these “sleeper cells” can do, Bautista said these terrorists could do the “lone wolf” attacks.
“It might be in the form of lone wolf [attacks]. Pag in-activate yun, pwedeng sabay-sabay silang mag-create ng terrorist activities for example one or two, mag-conduct sila ng explosion sa isang area and yung sa Cebu, assassination, liquidation that will create a big impact, although two or three persons lang ang gumagawa, so yun yung most probable na strategy nila in the meantime,” the PA chief stressed.
As this develops, Bautista admitted that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has contributed greatly to government efforts to hunt down remaining terrorists in the island.
“Yes, oo kasi yun, unang-una, we can hold a person na particularly pagka very suspicious and may background of terrorist activity kasi sa Human Security Act natin, you can take in custody a terrorist/ suspicious person in 36 hours tapos, after which kelangan i-release mo na siya, not unlike itong nangyari sa martial law, na-hold namin sila, kasi ang pagkuha kasi ng custody is not question and answer but you have to dig the background, kung Indonesian siya we have to ask our counterpart in Indonesia or in Malaysia so it will take time,” he added.
Another advantage of martial law, according to the PA chief, is that troops can search a particular house suspected of being an improvised explosive device or ammunition factory without any warrants from the courts. PNA