MANILA, Philippines – It appears reports that terrorists from Sri Lanka have slipped into the Philippines and were preparing for attacks in Luzon were nothing more than a family feud “gone awry,” said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday, August 11.
“Per verification, there is good reason to doubt the veracity of the report as it came out in the papers,” said AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo in a statement.
On Saturday, August 10, Arevalo said the AFP was verifying reports that a certain Mark Kevin Samhoon and Victoria Sophia Sto. Domingo have entered the Philippines from Sri Lanka, and were working with an extremist group based in Northern Luzon to launch terror attacks on churches and other establishments.
However, it turned out that Sto. Domingo had already responded to the accusations before the Counter-Terrorism Division (CTD) of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on July 22, Arevalo said.
In her affidavit, Sto. Domingo “vehemently denied” she and Samhoon, her fiancé, were suicide bombers, and that her mother, Anarkalie Dulara Palliyaguruge Sto. Domingo, was a “terrorist financier.”
Sto. Domingo claimed her father, Diosdado Manolette Mortalla Sto. Domingo, was behind the accusations, and had fed the information to authorities.
On Monday, August 5, Arevalo said the AFP Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) had been investigating reports of possible terror threats since August 2, and were on high alert particularly in Laoag City, Vigan City, Tuguegarao City, and Manaoag, Pangasinan.
A NOLCOM memo to its units dated August 2 mentioned possible terror threats to Roman Catholic churches and cities with business centers in Northern Luzon.
“AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. advises our people not to be easily swayed by unconfirmed media reports and information from individuals or groups whose reports come from unverified sources or are yet to be validated,” Arevalo said in his latest statement.
“The AFP will continue to coordinate and collaborate with the NBI, the PNP, and other relevant government agencies here and abroad to strengthen our intelligence and security posture. Our people should not be alarmed to see more soldiers deployed in certain areas in their locale,” he added, urging the public to remain calm and report “unusual observations” to the police and the military. – Rappler.com
JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.