MANILA, Philippines – The terrorist Maute Group has relatives residing in Metro Manila but they are not radical, National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director Oscar Albayalde said during a House committee hearing on Tuesday, May 30.
"'Di porke relatives sila, they are already violent," Albayalde said. "It's just like normal na may relative ako sa ibang lugar probably sa Mindanao, ganun din." (Just because they are relatives does not mean they are already violent. It's just like me having relatives in other places like in Mindanao. It's the same case.)
"This is a recycled narrative, they have been around ever since before the bombings in Quiapo," Albayalde said.
In November 2016, an improvised explosive device was found near the US embassy in Manila, with two suspects linked to the Maute Group later arrested.
The police chief also assured the committee that cops have been "in contact" with the Maute relatives and the Manila Muslim community through their district offices.
Albayalde's presentation to the House committee on Metro Manila development comes a week after the continuing clashes in Marawi, which shook the nation and prompted the President to declare martial law over the island-region. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)
The House committee further grilled Albayalde, asking whether he can promise that there won't be another botched military operation from "failure of intelligence".
Albayalde quickly clarified that intelligence operations are conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but he added that they are already in coordination. (READ: Soldiers help QC cops as NCR police on 'full alert')
When asked about the capacity of the police to conduct investigations and security measures through "modern equipment", Albayalde admitted that they are underarmed and underequipped.
The police chief said that the police to firearms ratio is yet to reach the 1:1 ideal, and that they do not have enough X-ray equipment and K-9 units to completely secure the region of almost 13 million people.
Albayalde then threw the issue back to the legislators and mayors present, saying that the police needs more help from them.
In an interview after the meeting, Albayalde clarified that they need funds to maintain the "full alert" operations they are conducting which include around-the-clock checkpoints and patrols.
"'Yung everyday operations ng PNP lalo na yung mga local territorial units natin, it entails funding talaga," said Albayalde. "Gasoline for visibility and patrolling national headquarters, hindi naman lahat maipo-provide ng (not all can be provided by) national headquarters."