Military troops in Bohol remain on alert against any possibility of Mindanao crisis spillover.
With the martial law in Mindanao, the Maute group clashing with government troops in Marawi City and theBangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bandits in North Cotabato have the tendency to seek refuge northwards.
They might head Visayas and Luzon, and some of them might choose Bohol.
This is the calculation of the military, according to BGen. Arnulfo Matanguihan, commander of the 302nd Brigade.
We should not discount the possibility na yong Bohol mapuntahan din. So we should remain vigilant. Magbantay lang,” according to Matanguihan.
He explained that with the martial law, some of the identified members of the Maute group might already have arrest orders from the administrator of martial law.
Their option could be to seek refuge in Visayas and Luzon to evade arrest, considering that the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus is suspended at the height of martial law.
“Mayro’ng arrest order ‘yan from the administrator of the martial law, not from the court. So ‘yong grupo na ‘yon kung masyadong init na sila don sa Mindanao, they might seek refuge in Visayas and Mindanao lalong lalo na yong may mga arrest order from the administrator of the martial law,” Matanguihan explained.
He said Governor Edgar Chatto already alerted them of the possibility and to prepare for the worst scenario so that the province will not be caught off guard.
Matanguihan also said he believes that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has helped in the ongoing government effort to neutralize the armed groups sowing terror in the south.
He said this is apparent in the daily news coverage on the Mindanao crisis and it shows the martial law has been capacitating on the part of the military in neutralizing the armed groups and in segregating them from civilian evacuees.
“Nakita naman natin yong armado na kino-confront ng ating armed forces do’n ay malakas din ang resistance na pinakita nila.
As far as far as neutralizing the Maute group, Matanguihan agreed that the declaration of martial law in Mindanao has been capacitating on the part of the military and those coming from Mindanao “may also say the same thing”.
Matanguihan also said that the military is confident that Boholanos will continue to be cooperative with the government just like in the recent neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf members who infiltrated Bohol.
“Kakatapos ng campaign natin against Abu Sayyaf. We were able to neutralize all of them. So, as far as that group is concerned, talagang completely neutralized ‘yon. Ang epekto no’n hindi lang dito but probably also to the nearby provinces of Cebu and Siquijor.
Banking on the same cooperation that the people extended during the fight against the Abu Sayyaf, the military securing Bohol expect the same attitude in the current threat of spillover of Mindanao crisis.
This is considering that Bohol is accessible from Mindanao by sea travel through a number of ports- -Jagna, Tagbilaran, and some connecting routes from Dumaguete City and Cebu City.
The Philippine Army has deployed soldiers in plain clothes to the strategic barangays where intelligence information can be gathered and be responded promptly.
The provincial government, for its part, maintains open communication with the people up to the purok level through the Purok Power Movement.
The governor also tapped barangay officials and staff in disseminating information to the grassroots level for efficient reporting system.
Matanguihan said information from the community are vital in preventing any terrorist group from establishing a groundwork to challenge the government.
The people are encouraged to immediately report to authorities, presence of suspicious individuals in their neighborhood.
This is aside from the effort of the Philippine Ports Authority in implementing stricter security measures at ports, and the Philippine Coast Guard’s security routine around the borders of Bohol.
The Philippine Army also assists the police units in manning checkpoints in strategic areas of the province.