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Palace slams ‘noisy minority,’ blames media ‘sensationalism’

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Vexed by the onslaught of criticisms it has been receiving lately on the government’s failure to prevent the recent bombing incident in Makati and address the rising criminality in the country, Malacañang yesterday slammed the so-called “noisy minority” for allegedly politicizing the issues that are currently confronting President Aquino’s leadership.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda also blamed the media for allegedly “sensationalizing” the recent crime incidents that are being reported to the public lately beginning from the carjacking and killing spree involving a notorious group of car thieves to the latest bus mishap which already claimed five innocent lives.

“They (police) are the repository of all the statistics. They enforce peace and order. These things, I do not think, can be fudged. The only reason we are thinking that crime rates are up is that there is publicity on the kidnapping, on the certain

crimes. But overall, the crimes that are not very, very publicized and not sensational have been properly reported and properly prosecuted,” Lacierda asserted.

Former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez also added himself to the growing number of people who expressed disappointment with how Aquino has been running the government as he reportedly described his administration as “inutile” because of the crimes that are happening lately.

Lacierda claimed that the law enforcement authorities did not sleep on their jobs when the first travel advisory citing an imminent terrorist attack based on raw information was received by the country on Nov. 3 last year.

He said Malacañang had immediately ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the government’s intelligence agencies to immediately beef up the country’s security measures to prevent any untoward events from happening.

“While it is true that the President expressed his concern on the basis of the travel advisory being raw information only, we did not ignore the warnings. In fact, I came out with a statement and we informed the public that AFP and PNP were on heightened alert and then we also mentioned that NCRPO (National Capital Region Police Office) has increased police visibility and deployed police in malls, hotels and commercial establishments,” Lacierda explained.

In belying Gonzalez’s claims, on the other hand, Lacierda ironically applied the same line of defense that former President Gloria Arroyo’s men used to do which was to summon statistical figures in an effort to dispel the public’s negative perceptions.

Lacierda claimed that there has been a general decrease in crime statistics from 2009 to 2010 as if these numbers genuinely reflect the disparity between the previous and the current administrations in curbing crimes.

The Palace official also refused to admit that the Tuesday’s bus blast could be attributed to the government’s poor intelligence work even as he concurred with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s statement that authorities were actually tipped off before the attack happened.

Lacierda also disowned the Philippines’ ranking as the eighth most dangerous country in the world based on the global terrorism risk index of the United Kingdom-based think tank, Maplecroft, as it claimed that nothing has changed with respect to their position on the latest travel advisory issued by the British Embassy in light of the recent Makati bus blast.

Lacierda told a news briefing that security forces in the country are all in place as he attributed Maplecroft’s assessment to the longstanding problems of terrorism in the South which, he said, is a concern for the Aquino administration.

In its updated travel advisory, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said attacks could be “indiscriminate,” citing the bus explosion.

“Terrorist groups continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out these attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country,” the UK advice said.

It also maintained that there is a “high threat” from terrorism throughout the country.

The UK said British travelers to the Philippines must be wary of their security when going to places frequented by expatriates and tourists like airports, shopping malls and places of worship.

Relatedly, the AFP is considering the bus bombing as a minor setback as it cited the only lapse of the intelligence community is the failure to pinpoint the exact place and time of the attack which are really hard to establish especially against determined attackers.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. yesterday stressed the military is taking the incident as a challenge to further improve on its operations and training.

“The lapse really is actually pinpointing the time, date and place and the modus operandi on how it will be implemented but we have had reports of the possibility of these threats,” he said.

Mabanta, however, stressed that no country is exempted from terror attacks as he cited recent bombing of an airport terminal in Moscow that killed dozens of people. “This is a minor setback, no doubt about it. But we look at it as an opportunity to really strengthen and inform our people about the need to really be vigilant. We look at this as an opportunity to strengthen our intelligence collection efforts, to beef up our equipment, to add or push our intelligence operatives further,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, said the bombing could be an operation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

According to De Lima, she had been informed during Cabinet security briefings that the operation was a “signature of the MILF-Special Operations Group.”

But the Muslim group denied involvement in the bus bombing.

De Lima, quoting the military, however, said “MILF does not own up, ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group) usually does (in the past). They (ASG) would claim ownership or responsibility of an act like that but not MILF.

Asked to further comment on the bomb used, the Justice chief said: “(the bombcraft) bears the signature of MILF-SOG and is similar to the recent bombings including other bus in Cotabato.

 




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