Iloilo City on alert status following alleged NPA attack, suspected Maute interception

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Iloilo City (CNN Philippines, June 19) - Police in Iloilo City are leveling up their alert status after an encounter with armed men believed to be New People's Army (NPA) members and the arrest of a suspected Maute sister at the Iloilo port on Sunday.

"There is no room for laxity and complacency. Everybody must be on guard and vigilant. The people and the entire city must be protected and secured," said SSupt. Remus Zacharias P. Canieso, city police chief.

The tighter security comes after three passengers with suspected links to the terror Maute group were held by the Philippine Coast Guard at the Iloilo Port around 3:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Two women and a man believed to be members of the Maute group bound for Manila on board the M/V St. Therese of Child Jesus when the ship made a stopover at Iloilo.

Authorities arrested Farida Romato, allegedly a Maute relative, her sister Al Jadid Romato, and the latter's boyfriend, Abdul Rahman Dimacuta.

The Coast Guard said the three left Cagayan De Oro City Saturday and used different names to hide their identities.

Coast Guard-Iloilo commander Lt. Edison Diaz said their counterparts from Cagayan De Oro informed them about the suspicious individuals making a stopover at the Iloilo port.

Following the arrest, Farida Romato was found to have to face rebellion charges, although authorities have yet to validate if she is related to the Maute family.

Romato and her companions were flown onboard a PCG plane to Cagayan de Oro Monday morning at the request of the CDO coast guard, who cited the three's operations in CDO.

NPA attack

Meanwhile, the Iloilo police had an encounter with alleged NPA members at a municipal police station on the same day.

Around 50 armed men attacked the Maasin Municipal Police Station at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Police on duty said two persons entered the station to file a blotter report, while others waited for the signal outside. A total of eight policemen on duty were handcuffed.

No one was hurt, but the armed men stole firearms, cash, jewelry, and a laptop. They commandeered a patrol car and fled to neighboring Alimodian town.

The Maasin station chief was sacked after the attack, and the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB6) has temporarily taken over the station.

Police Inspector Kent Capadosa is now leading the RPSB6 in Maasin to secure the area and to avoid other raids.

Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones said the attack took place because the Maasin police were too confident that the NPA would not penetrate the police station.

He added the Maasin Police Chief had received report of the group's plans to take over the police station in the past months.

Col. Pio DiƱoso III of the military's 301st brigade, meanwhile, said there is a strong presence of rebels in the mountainous areas of Maasin.

"We are trying our best to get back the stolen firearms and we are encouraging the public to cooperate and report to us whatever happenings in the area," he said.

Following the incidents, Canieso appealed to the public to be on alert, cooperative and get involved against threat groups.

He encouraged the people to notify or report suspicious personalities or incidents to the nearest police station.