Western Command (WESCOM) commander Vice Admiral Rene Medina said they are working closely with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate reports about two foreign-looking nationals who were observed acting suspiciously on Thursday afternoon, April 25, during a mass in the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
In a get-together event with the WESCOM Defense Press Corps on Saturday night at the Rizal Reef Hall, Medina said they have received the reports regarding the two alleged “Arab-looking” personalities and are now working with the Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) to probe their questionable behaviors.
“We are validating the reports in order for us, really, to ensure that they are true and credible so this will not cause alarm and so that the public will be aware of this situation in Palawan. Yes, we are supporting the PNP in this case,” Medina said.
Medina said although observations are not “conclusive”, the vigilance displayed by the parishioners is applaudable because keeping an eye out for suspicious situations will reduce the chance of an extremist attack.
“The reports made by those who were able to observe them means Palaweños are vigilant. That should be noted and should continue because better be vigilant than sorry,” Medina pointed out.
Asked to comment about the recent suicide bombings inside churches in Mindanao and in Sri Lanka, Medina said Palawan’s situation is different since its residents are mostly Christians.
“The situation in Palawan is very different, palagi kong sinasabi na the area of Palawan is not conducive to that kind of atrocity because ‘yong population ng Palawan is purely Christian unlike in other places like Sri Lanka na talagang they can mingle around with the public. In Palawan, mostly is tourist destinations… puwede lahat magpanggap sila na turista but based on our initial information, based on our coordination with our counterparts in Manila there was no report about that kind of planning,” Medina added.
On Friday, police visibility around churches, mosques, and other places of convergence in the city was increased following reports about the two foreign-looking nationals who were observed taking photos and videos inside the Immaculate Conception Cathedral.
Police Lieutenant Colonel Aristotle Castillo, operations chief of the PPCPO, said Friday the increase in police visibility is to ease the worry of city residents because what was observed and also caught by a CCTV.
Castillo said one thing positive about it, he said, is “the test of public vigilance” because reports were immediately made to authorities.
“At least alam na nila kung ano ‘yong mga dapat gawin, kung ano ‘yong mga dapat bantayan. Vigilance pa rin talaga, No. 1 ‘yan. But verification and validation are needed in this case,” he said.
Medina urged residents of the city and province to continue being vigilant and to report all suspicious individuals and activities in their communities.