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Amid MSU bombing, defense chief urges review of campus ban on security forces


Cristina Chi – Philstar.com

December 15, 2023 | 12:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — Department of National Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro has maintained that there was no “failure of intelligence” that led to the fatal bombing of a gymnasium inside the Mindanao State University in Marawi City on December 3.

Defending the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Teodoro stressed that what happened was officials’ “failure to appreciate” the intelligence sent to them, but he did not categorically name the institution or authorities who did so.

“We have been very vigilant in trying to track down these people. Naturally, there are weak links in the chain in areas beyond our control,” Teodor told ANC’s Headstart on Friday.

The defense chief said that there is a need for the “appropriate authorities” to review the policy of the MSU that restricts the entry of police and military personnel — a policy that Teodoro said was similar to that of the now-dead defense accords of the University of the Philippines.

“It’s safe for me to say that had there been police or military inside the compound, there would have been appropriate measures that could have forestalled this incident,” Teodoro said, adding that MSU keeps its own security force.

Teodoro’s statement comes after the AFP and Sen. Bato Dela Rosa — former chief of the PNP — floated the possibility that there was a “failure of intelligence” after the Bangsamoro government bared that bomb threat messages were circulating through text the night before the deadly explosion, which killed four and wounded 50 others.

Specifically, the AFP earlier said that they had a “failure of intelligence due to failure of capabilities” but noted that the failure was not out of negligence.

The AFP then walked back on the statement and said that the “failure of intelligence” term is not accurate for their circumstances since the issue concerns the limited capacity of the AFP to gather all possible intelligence information.

The defense chief said that there would be some “corrective measures” following the incident. 

“Whether there were lapses on the part of AFP, naturally we will take corrective actions and be more vigilant and aggressive in monitoring extremism and terrorism,” he said. 

“However, I can confidently say that it’s not the failure of intelligence of either the PNP or the AFP,” he added.

Rights group Karapatan has warned against possible government moves to immediately increase the presence of security forces inside the MSU campus.

Karapatan said that previous administrations have used similar bombing incidents whip up “counter-terror” and Islamophobic rhetoric to further illegal searches and arrests.

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