By Yolanda Sotelo

MANAOAG– The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have sent troops to secure the Our Lady of Manaoag Church, after “leaked intelligence reports” showed that the minor basilica is one of the targets of terrorist groups.

While Provincial Police officials assured that Pangasinan is “safe,” the province is under alert level and that they are validating the information from the AFP intelligence group.

“While not yet validated, these intelligence reports (prompts) the (police) field units to heighten their set up. When we got the report, we automatically had coordination with the (AFP brigades) to discuss what actions to take,” Lieutenant Colonel Abubakas Mangelen, city chief of police, said.

Lt. Colonel Norman Florentino, head of the community relations branch of the Pangasinan police, said three teams from the PNP and another team from the AFP had been sent to the Manaoag town.

Manaoag Mayor Kim Amador, in an advisory written in Filipino, said the report about the terrorism attack is spreading fast through the social media, but is there are no signs of terrorism in the town.

“Makikita sa iba’t-ibang panig ng simbahan at ng bayan ang mga unipormadong alagad ng batas upang mabantayan at maprotektahan ang mga mamamayan at bisita,” he said.

But he added that the advisory was not to sow fear, but to enlighten everyone about the alleged terrorism attack.

The local government recently held a meeting with different agencies to discuss and plan on how continuously secure the town and the church, the residents and visitors, and to be ready in case of attack.

The meeting was attended by the Peace and Order Council (under Office of the Mayor), the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Camp Abat and the basilica’s leadership.

Amador asked the residents and visitors to help and cooperate in fighting terrorism in the town.

“We ask everyone to unite, to be watchful of any suspicious activities, things, or activities, and immediately notify any police station. Everyone is advised that unity and cooperation will be effective if we are calm and observant, and if we deepen our faith. Terrorism will prevail if we let fear get the better of us, and continue to sow wrong information. Instead let us be observant and must unite against terrorism,” Amador said.

Mangelen said the provincial police formed a council among Muslim policemen in the province with getting information on terrorism and illegal drugs.

“There was brainstorming among the Muslim policemen. We discussed issues like, if they put themselves in the shoes of the terrorists, where will they be, where is their point of entry, how will they camouflage themselves, what are the areas where they will hide?” Mangelen said.

The council will be coordinating with the Pangasinan Muslim Association which will be the sources of information about Muslim community, like inventory of new and old residents in a community.