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PAMPANGA, Philippines – A bomb scare disrupted normalcy in the provinces of Zambales and Bataan, resulting in the suspension of afternoon classes in schools and government offices on Monday, February 12.
Zambales Governor Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. confirmed that a bomb threat was received via email at around 3:52 am, purportedly by a Japanese.
“May natanggap na bomb threat. Kumalat ang balita at lumabas ngayon na yung halos na magkakalapit na lalawigan: Bataan, Zambales, Pampanga ay nag panic. Tingnan muna natin ang laman ng threat. Wag masyadong matakot,” Ebdane said.
(A bomb threat was received. The news spread, and the neighboring provinces such as Bataan, Zambales, and Pampanga panicked. Let’s look at the content of the threat first. Don’t be too afraid.)
Ebdane, who is also the head of the Peace and Order Council in Region III, called on the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), as well as the International Criminal Police Organization to begin an investigation into the series of bomb threats allegedly sent by the same person.
“Base sa ating karanasan, ang nangyari na ito ay most probably ginawa ng mga sira ulo na gustong magulo ang ating siyudad, probinsya. Wala silang magawa,” he said.
(Based on our experience, what happened was most probably done by individuals who simply have nothing better to do than disrupt our cities and provinces.)
“Investigate where the threat came from or what it originated from. The police, NBI, and Interpol are there. Let’s use them. I think we can pinpoint who did it,” Ebdane said.
The Bataan provincial police office said in its Facebook post that it was taking the threat seriously.
Bataan provincial director Colonel Palmer Tria directed all police stations to immediately respond to the government agencies that received bomb threats for a thorough assessment.
Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino Jr. called the threat a hoax and advised the public not to worry.
Paulino, however, still ordered the suspension of afternoon classes in both public and private schools as well as government offices.
Classes were also suspended by the Department of Education (DepEd) in Balanga town in Bataan province.
Ebdane advised local governments to discuss crisis management scenarios on how to respond to such “psychological attacks” to avoid disruption of work and classes.
The governor also asked the public to be vigilant in their surroundings and report any unusual items to the local authorities.
Two separate bomb threats also affected operations at the Social Security System (SSS) in Lucena City and the town government in Paete, Laguna, on Monday and Tuesday. Classes in at least six public schools in Paete, Laguna, were also disrupted.
According to the Paete police, the Department of Education (DepEd) office in the town received a message about bombs supposedly planted in schools and the municipal government.
The bomb scare prompted town government and school officials to evacuate employees and students.
Sherlie Calusin, SSS-Lucena Manager, said they also received a similar bomb threat, leading to the evacuation of the office.
Meanwhile, the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center (CICC) said at least six government agencies also received bomb threats via email, but investigators determined that these were nothing more than hoaxes.
In a statement, CICC Executive Director Alexander Ramos said there was no cause for alarm as the sender and the email have been flagged as fraudulent.
It said it has also sparked concern as similar threats were simultaneously received by multiple government agencies in Seoul, South Korea.
The CICC said it was not the first instance of such threats being made. Last year, the same alleged sender targeted several government agencies with similar bomb threats.
It confirmed that the emails were traced to Japan, with the domain name being registered locally in the country.
Efforts are now underway to request the Japanese government to conduct a thorough investigation to identify the perpetrator behind these malicious emails, the CICC said. – with reports from Darcie de Galicia/Rappler.com