Soldiers take to the streets to gather intel on radicals

Published January 17, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Ali G. Macabalang

Cotabato City – Soldiers from the Sixth Infantry Division (6th ID) have taken to the streets, holding dialogues with the public at-large, particularly public utility drivers, to gather intelligence data on the reported attempt of radicals to enter the Cotabato region.

The civic-military operations (CMO) battalion of the 6th ID launched the street dialogs on Tuesday among habal-habal (passenger motorbike) drivers serving the thickly populated Pedro Colina Hill, former location of the headquarters of the combined police-military Central Mindanao Command (CEMCOM) forces.

In these informal dialogues, some of the drivers revealed experiencing harassment from unidentified gunmen “roaming around the city.”

Some of these suspicious armed men even posed as habal-habal drivers, said Lt. Col. Gerry Besana of the 6th ID, citing information from the dialog.

The CMO team provided the drivers a mobile hotline number through which they could report similar instances or any signs of threat, according to Besana.

He said authorities would likewise provide the habal-habal drivers identification stickers and proper uniforms to isolate poseur-drivers.

“These (drivers’ tips) were small and yet real threats that can (escalate) into bigger security concerns,” Besana said.

He said the government and all peace-loving citizens should not be complacent in the current drive against terror and other organized crimes.

“Vigilance is the most crucial task of each member of the society. A lot of petty crimes are happening around and yet they are not reported to authorities,” Besana said.

He recalled that the bloody Marawi City siege took place because state authorities thereat were caught off-guard by Daesh-inspired radicals due to complacency or imprudence.

He said Tuesday’s street dialogues will be replicated in other parts of this city and nearby areas in Central Mindanao, a geo-political region currently under close watch against entry by remnants of the Marawi siege perpetrators and other elements espousing Daesh radicalism.