By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) would raise its full alert status starting next week to ensure a safe celebration of the Christmas season.

“Pagdating ng Dec. 15 ay suspended na ang leave ng mga pulis as a normal practice. Ibig sabihin naka full alert na tayo nationwide para siguraduhin na accounted at meron tayong readily available na mga personnel for deployment (By Dec. 15, all leaves of police personnel would be canceled as a normal practice. This means that we are on full alert nationwide to make sure that our personnel are accounted for and that we have readily available personnel for deployment),” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said in a presser at Camp Crame, Quezon City on Tuesday.

Fajardo said PNP chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. has ordered intensified police visibility and preventive patrol operations to ensure public safety, especially churchgoers who would attend the nine-day “Simbang Gabi” which starts on Dec. 16.

As part of the PNP’s “Ligtas Paskuhan 2023” security campaign, she said about 39,000 PNP personnel would be deployed across the country for law enforcement and public safety operations.

“Kasama na rin diyan yung mga places of worship, major thoroughfares, mga transport terminals to make sure nga dahil inaasahan natin na kapagka mga ganitong December ay tumataas din, dumodoble or tumpitriple pa mga bumi biyahe pauwi ng probinsya (That includes places of worship, major thoroughfares, transport terminals. We want to make sure that our security is tight because we expect the number of travelers to double or even triple this December),” she said.

She said PNP personnel would be augmented by force multipliers including from the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Persons of interest

Fajardo, meanwhile, said the two persons of interest (POIs) who could be linked to Sunday’s bombing at the Mindanao State University (MSU) gym in Marawi City have been identified.

She, however, declined to give further details.

“What we can share to you it appears na affiliated ito sa isang local terrorist group operating in Mindanao and they have previous criminal records kaya nakakuha tayo ng identification nila, including pictures dahil nung na-interview natin yung ilang witnesses na nag attend nitong Mass ay nakita nila at describe nila itong mga suspects (What we can share to you it appears that it is affiliated with a local terrorist group operating in Mindanao and they have previous criminal records. So we got their identification, including pictures because when we interviewed some witnesses who attended this Mass, they said they saw these suspects and described them),” Fajardo said.

She added that they are also looking at two more POIs who allegedly served as lookouts during the incident.

Fajardo said witnesses noticed that these two men acted suspiciously and stayed for a long time inside the gym before the explosion. (PNA)