First Filipino suicide bombing sparks call for improved intelligence work

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 11) — Government forces are bent on strengthening the country's intelligence capacity now more than ever amid concerns over the first known Filipino suicide bomber in Philippine history. 

"It goes against the grain of the character of Filipinos. 'Yung mag-suicide ka para sa terrorism (That you commit suicide for terrorism)," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a media briefing Thursday, adding that the latest development is considered by the Palace as a "cause for concern."

He said President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered "to enhance the technology in surveillance and intelligence work."

Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Oscar Albayalde said their proposals to buy surveillance equipment had been disapproved in the past, but he did not elaborate which government agency blocked the purchase.

"Every time we cannot request yung mga ganung mga surveillance equipment, sometimes there are political issues na pumapasok kaya hindi tayo maka-improve ng ating mga napaka-importanteng surveillance equipment," Albayalde told reporters in a separate event.

[Translation: "Every time we cannot request certain surveillance equipment, sometimes there are political issues involved so we could not improve our very important surveillance equipment."]

He said the police are working to prevent possible spill-over of suicide bombing to other parts of the country.

"Hindi natin maiwasan ang posibilidad na baka lang naman meron pang susunod (We cannot discount the possibility of another attack) that's why we have to address this radicalization process," he said.

The military on Wednesday identified Norman Lasuca, a Filipino in his early 20s, as one of two suicide bombers behind the June 28 twin blasts at a military camp in Indanan, Sulu. The attack killed three soldiers and three civilians, while two bodies of suspected suicide bombers were found.

The identity of the second suspect is still unknown but Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan told CNN Philippines he or she may also be a Filipino.

Mindanao has been under martial law since May 23, 2017, the day local and international terrorists attacked Marawi City, sparking a five-month war with government forces. Military rule stays until yearend as Duterte argued it is needed to secure the island region against terrorists and rebels.

When asked if the Filipino's suicide attack would prompt another request for martial law extension, Panelo said it would be the President's call. Armed Forces of the Philippines Spokesperson Edgard Arevalo said it would be too early to say, stressing that the President has the final say.

Authorities are also validating the number of foreign terrorists in the country, as well as their nationalities. Officials said the foreign terrorists are being harbored by the Sulu faction of the Abu Sayyaf led by Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, the supposed acting leader of ISIS in the Philippines.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles and Eimor Santos contributed to this report.