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Security officials tell senators: Philippines in safe hands

MANILA, Philippines — Officials of the country’s security agencies have given assurance that the Philippines is in safe hands in the aftermath of the bombing at Mindanao State University (MSU) that left four people dead and scores injured last Sunday, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

Emerging after almost two hours of an executive session yesterday, Zubiri echoed the pronouncement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) that persons of interest in connection with the bomb attack are now the subject of a massive manhunt.

“After the security briefing, it was shown the Philippines is in safe hands, according to the AFP and PNP,” he said.

“We got a good briefing with friends from intel service: Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and PNP chief Benjamin Acorda Jr.,” he added.

Zubiri called for an executive briefing from the agencies after an improvised explosive device ripped through the MSU gymnasium while a holy mass was being celebrated. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Also present in the executive session were National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Ricardo de Leon, NICA Assistant Director General Theodore Libardo and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año.

Zubiri said the authorities have already persons of interest, but refused to elaborate pending further investigation.

“We’re not at liberty to divulge who. There’s a massive manhunt. They’re now securing all high-level positive threat areas where the public go to. Military and police are all over, but we are all safe,” he told Senate reporters during an interview.

The Senate president hinted that the persons of interest are not foreigners.

Despite having persons of interest, Zubiri admitted that the case is about to be considered solved.

“It can’t be said yet, but radicalization is happening again after the Marawi siege. These are relatives and friends of those who died in the Marawi siege, so we have to urge the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) government together with local officials to monitor this radicalization effort. That won’t go away. I