QC Mayor: Terror 'cells' in Manila, but not a threat

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 13) — There are "terror cells" or persons affiliated with or sympathetic to armed groups in Metro Manila, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista said on Tuesday.

"Sa Metro Manila I believe, personally believe, talagang marami nang mga cells dito. Marami nang cells dito, at kailangang bantayan iyang mga cell na iyan [There are a lot of cells here, and they have to be watched]," Bautista, Chairperson of the National Capital Region Peace and Order Council, told CNN Philippines' The Source.

He said the presence was not limited to Maute Group members, but possibly including the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and other terror groups.

However, he insisted their presence is "not a threat."

"You don't have to be scared because that is the objective of the terrorists [is]... to make you scared talaga. So you don't have to be scared," said Bautista.

"Ang Metro Manila para sa kanila, R&R nila yan e. Kunwari...pagkatapos ng giyera, punta sila sa urban centers tapos nagpapahinga sila dun," he added. "Nagpapalamig, kape-kape, nag-eenjoy... tapos balik ulit sa giyera. Metro Manila for them is like United States or Europe."

[Translation: Metro Manila is R&R for them... After the fighting, they go to urban centers to rest there. They cool off, have coffee, enjoy... then go back to fighting.]

Bautista also said local governments must stay alert and be ready for any untoward incidents.

"They are prepositioned...So kailangan higpitan natin yung ating security measures so that kung sumiklab man, ready na rin tayong kumontra [We have to tighten security measures so that if something comes up, we can defend ourselves]," he said.

Bautista's comments come after the Quezon City Council announced on June 6 that it passed a resolution adopting a Peace and Order Public Safety Plan in line with the reorganization of their Peace and Order Council.

The plan, which will be formulated by the council, will have programs and activities for peace, order, and safety.

The plan comes amid heightened security concerns due to the clash of military and Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired Maute troops in Marawi City, the subsequent declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and the deadly robbery and arson attack on Resorts World Manila. A Kuwaiti couple reported to be linked with ISIS was also arrested in Taguig on March 25.

Bautista expressed support for the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, although he thought expanding it to Luzon and the Visayas was "unnecessary."

Stronger LGUs for federalism

Bautista also weighed in on federalism, a shift that President Rodrigo Duterte has championed since his campaign.

Bautista said local government units should be strengthened first "as a precursor to federalism."

"The unitary form — puwede na tayo mag-transition (sa federal), pero palakasin muna natin ang local governments [we can transition (to federalism), but let's strengthen local governments first]," said Bautista.

He added that for federalism to work, the country needs a strong judiciary, and military and police forces.

In line with building "a strong metropolitan government," the mayor seeks granting legislative powers to Metro Manila mayors.

"Nag-uusap-usap kami doon, aaprubahan namin as a Council. Hindi rin namin maiimplement sa mga lugar namin, eh it's useless," said Bautista.

"Wala kasing ordinance ang Metro Manila eh, puro resolution... wala namang nangyayari kasi there's no force and effect of a law," he added.

[Translation: We approve (policies) as a Council. But we can't implement them in our cities, so it's useless... Metro Manila has no ordinances, just resolutions... but nothing happens because there's no force and effect of a law.]

Bautista said he hopes the 17 mayors would be able to give the green light to policies in the same way that the House of Representatives is in charge of the national budget or that the Senate ratifies international treaties.

He said Metro Manila could, for example, talk tackle traffic congestion in ports, management of the Manila bay and the Laguna bay areas and management of PPP projects.

"And this is a precursor to having Metro Manila as its own state. I'm looking at it that way," he added.