Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has vowed to go hard on criminals that threaten to destabilize peace and order in Quiapo, particularly at the district’s Islamic Center, following successive bomb blasts that killed two persons and injured 20 more.
During a “Peacebuilding Forum” at the City Hall on Tuesday, Estrada told the city’s Muslim community and religious leaders that the Manila Police District will relentlessly hunt down criminals in Quiapo, including those behind the three explosions.
He also assured that the rights of every Muslim citizen will be respected, especially during legitimate police operations.
To guarantee constant communication with the Muslim sector in Manila, Estrada is set to appoint Hajji Moh’d Ersad “Bebot” Mali as adviser and head of the Manila Muslim Affairs Office at the City Hall.
Mali is the head administrator of the Golden Mosque in Quiapo. With an honorary salary of P1/year, he will advise the Office of the Mayor on issues and concerns relating to the Muslim communities in the city.
“Please be assured there will be no discrimination,” Estrada told the Muslim leaders and community representatives. “We are not targeting any specific ethnic or cultural group. Criminals are the ones we are after, and our Manila police have every intention of abiding by the rules of procedure when doing their jobs.”
Estrada and the Muslim leaders at the Islamic Center have pledged to implement joint measures to suppress criminality in Quiapo, including illegal drugs.
“We will ensure constant coordination with concerned community leaders and barangay officials,” Estrada said. “This is especially true for police operations centered on individuals and groups identified as involved in illegal drug trade.”
“We all want peace: peace in our time, and peace for our city and country in the years to come,” he added.
For his part, MPD Director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel said the city police will respect and will be more sensitive to the customs and traditions of the Muslim community in Quiapo to avoid instances of discrimination and harassment.
Coronel said the Muslim leaders committed to assist MPD in law enforcement operations in Quiapo, particularly in information-sharing and crime reporting.
“Peace and order efforts will now be synchronized and integrated with the Office of the Mayor. Our Muslim leaders, we are very thankful, agreed to provide us information not only related to the Quiapo blasts investigation but also on the prevention and suppression of crimes in the area, to include illegal drugs,” Coronel said.
Several community elders at the Islamic Center have earlier complained of harassment by MPD operatives conducting raids at the Muslim community.
Grand Imam Solaiman Sarangani conveyed the Muslim community’s gratitude to Estrada and pledged they will help the city government and the local police in whatever means they can.
He pointed out that despite the prejudice against the Muslims, they want lasting peace more than anyone else.
Aside from Sarangani, the Federation of Filipino Muslim Traders Association, Inc. led by Sultan Taher Sultan Adel, and the Federation of Muslim Students of Manila led by Alhajib Maujon also attended yesterday’s consultative meeting called by Estrada.
Also present were Imam Faizal Baolo, Chairman Abubakar Sharief of Barangay 384, Zone 29; City Administrator Ericson Alcovendaz; and Supt. Joseph Ian LoFranco, officer-in-charge of the MPD’s Salaam Police Center.
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