Updated 16:52 PM PHT Tue, March 21, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Maute Group, a local terrorist group with links to ISIS, is present in Metro Manila, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Tuesday.
The PNP presented in a press briefing Nasip Sarip Ibrahim, a member of the Maute Group who is allegedly involved in a foiled bombing attempt on November 28, 2016 near the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Police said Ibrahim, who was nabbed from his home in Salam Compound in Barangay Culiat in Quezon City late Monday was providing "safe haven" to other members of the terror group.
"This discovery leads us to believe that the Maute Group has already established presence in Metro Manila," PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa said in the briefing.
"As to what extent--that is the subject of our follow-up investigation and operation," Dela Rosa said, adding that the Maute Group is the "strongest" among local terror groups who have pledged allegiance to the ISIS.
This comes after the "neutralization" of the "Tokboy group," or the Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines after government troops killed their leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, alias "Tokboy" on January 5 this year.
Authorities said they recovered several guns, mortar shells, and packets of shabu from Ibrahim's home.
Quezon City Police District director Guillermo Eleazar thanked residents of the Salam Compound for their cooperation which led to Ibrahim's arrest.
Tighter security in Metro Manila
Police are stepping up and tightening security in Metro Manila ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit from April 26 to 29, which the Philippines is hosting.
"There is always the threat of retaliatory acts coming from these threat groups who are now being bombarded by the Armed Forces of Philippines in Mindanao," PNP National Capital Region Police Office Regional Director Oscar Albayalde said in the same press briefing.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the military in the southern Philippines to go an all-out war against local terror groups including the Abu Sayyaf.
Asked about the possible entry of international terrorist group ISIS in the Philippines to recruit and train Islamic militants, police chief Dela Rosa admits it is a possibility.
"I don't fear for my life but I fear for the safety of the Filipino," said Dela Rosa, urging the public to remain calm, but stay alert and vigilant.
"Kung matakot ang publiko na lumabas, matakot na pumunta sa public places, that means they (terrorists) achieved their victory," Dela Rosa said.
[Translation: "If the public gets scared to go outside, or go to public places, that means the terrorists achieved their victory."]
Albayalde said there are more improvised explosive devices (IEDs) throughout Metro Manila that authorities are now trying to recover.
This was why the police deployed a 1,700-strong force during the Black Nazarene procession attended by millions on January 9, he said.
"I don't think merong makakasingit diyan sa dami talaga ng ating forces (I don't think an (IED) can slip through, not with the number of forces we have.)," Albayalde said.
Dela Rosa said officials were monitoring the country's ports and establishing strong checkpoints to block the entry of members of the Maute and other terror groups.
PNP: Maute sees ISIS support for funding
The Maute Group first made headlines after its members were accused of planting the bomb that killed 15 people and wounded dozens in Davao City on September 2, 2016.
Police have said the IED found near the U.S. Embassy was similar in design to the bomb used in the Davao explosion.
The Maute Group sought allegiance with the ISIS to fund their terror activities, said Albayalde.
"Kaya pinipilit nila na makagawa sila ng terror act that will make the ISIS recognize them for financial support. Napakalaking pera," Albayalde said.
[Translation: "That's why they hope to commit a terror act that will make the ISIS recognize them for financial support."]
He added local terror groups like Maute have turned to illegal drugs for funding.