Gov’t officials from Basilan raise alarm bells in hotels
Employees of a budget hotel in Cebu City were alarmed by the presence of a group of at least 10 persons speaking a “different language,” prompting them to alert the police yesterday.
“Naghinala yong nasa hotel. (The hotel employees were suspicious),” said Senior Supt. Joel Doria, director of the Cebu City Police Office.
Operatives of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) immediately responded past 8 a.m. and found out that the newly arrived hotel clients are government officials from Basilan who are in Cebu City for an official meeting at the Sugbutel along S. Osmeña Street at the North Reclamation Area.
“We just took precautionary measures to secure the area. It turned out that the group is in Cebu for a meeting,” Doria said.
A similar alarm was raised by the Capitol Tourist Inn when a group of bikers checked in.
According to Chief Insp. Cristopher Navida of the Cebu City Intelligence Branch, he created a team to verify the report.
But when they arrived at the hotel, they found out that the group who caused the alarm are bikers from Tawi-Tawi who are in Cebu for a tour.
The local police have repeatedly appealed to the public to report suspicious-looking persons and unusual activities following the armed encounter between suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and government forces in Bohol last week.
Four members of the armed group, including their leader Moumar Askali, were killed in the shootout. Eight others remain at large.
Doria said hotels in Cebu City have been very cooperative and have regularly informed them of any unusual events and persons.
He said they also talked to the local Muslim community who promised to inform the local police of the presence of other groups which are not familiar to them.
“The public has nothing to be alarmed of. The police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are on top of the situation,” Doria said.
Sources said the group from Basilan checked in at Sugbutel last Thursday, April 13. Cebu Daily News tried to talk to the group, but they already checked out of the hotel yesterday.
Staff members of the hotel refused to give any information about the group.
They said only their manager Fe Eroja could give details about their customers from Basilan.
Eroja, however, was out of Sugbutel yesterday and was not available for comment.
Last week, there were reports that other members of the armed group in Bohol fled to Cebu City.
However, police regional director Chief Supt. Noli Taliño belied the reports, saying they are not substantiated with facts.
Malo Manonggiring, director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos in Central Visayas (NCMF-7), said they are also on the lookout for the presence of ASG members in Cebu.
“We can assure the public that there are no sightings of Abu Sayyaf members in Cebu,” Manonggiring told CDN yesterday.
He said the Muslim community in Cebu wanted all leaders and members of the notorious ASG to be arrested.
“Abu Sayyaf members are criminals. They are not real Muslims. They only claim to be one. Real Muslims are not involved in kidnap for ransom or killings. Instead, Muslims protect the rights of others. If you kill even just one person, it’s as if you kill whole of humanity,” he explained.
Manonggiring appealed to the public to be alert at all times and report to authorities any suspicious-looking persons and unusual activities.
Manonggiring pointed out that not all people from Mindanao or Muslims are members of the ASG, alluding to the alarm at Sugbutel yesterday.
“Okay lang yon. All reports should be validated by the police. We could not be complacent,” Manonggiring said.
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