MANILA, Philippines – The full-blown government investigation into the alleged entry of ISIS terrorists into the Philippines was triggered by an e-mail that, according to female person of interest, may have been the doing of her father who disapproves of her fiancé.
Victoria Sto Domingo,19 years old and half-Filipino, half-Sri Lankan, was tracked down by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) based on an email that accused her and two others as planning terror attacks in the Philippines.
Sto Domingo told the NBI that her father may be behind the email. The e-mail set off different investigations, and prompted the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to place Northern Luzon on heightened alert.
"The reason was that, according to her statement, [it] could have been perpetrated by their father no less because her father does not approve of her relationship with her fiancé, and her father wanted her to stay at the house of the relative of the father," said NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin during a press conference on Tuesday, August 13.
Lavin said the NBI is inclined to believe that the father is behind the email.
"There is a strong indication that it is the father because he has done this already 6 years ago.... [He] cyberbulied his own daughter who was then a minor," said Lavin.
Lavin said they are studying filing charges against the e-mail sender.
"When the operatives from the counter-terrorism division wanted to reach out to the e-mail sender, the e-mail sender refused to provide valuable information and cooperate," Lavin said. "You cannot just play around with the security of the government."
Asked if the NBI is already clearing the 3 persons of interest, Lavin said, "As we speak, yes."
Lavin said the NBI received an e-mail in June, which it immediately forwarded to its intelligence units for verification. The e-mail said 3 Sri Lankan terrorists were planning attacks in the country, and that one of them, Sto Domingo, was already here.
The NBI said Sto Domingo voluntarily appeared before the NBI and said in a statement that she moved to the Philippines in November 2018 and gave birth in June. Her fiancé, Mark, is a Sri Lankan national working in Sri Lanka. The e-mail named a Mark Kevin Samhoon as one of the alleged terrorists.
Sto Domingo said her father wanted her to live in a relative's house but that she moved out of the said house on June 7, which was "about the same time" that the NBI received the e-mail, Lavin said.
Lavin said that "everything is under control."
"We would like to allay or assuage the fears of the public. Everything is in good hands," said Lavin.
Just the same, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra signed Department Order No. 413 on Tuesday, directing the NBI to probe "the alleged plan to conduct terror attacks in Northern Luzon."
"In any event, the Bureau of Immigration's anti-terror group is on the alert regarding further movements of these persons," said Guevarra.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) was also verifying the reports, said PNP chief General Oscar Albayalde, even as he said they did not have their own intelligence yet.
"If need bem we can heighten the alert status if we see that there is basis to that information," Albayalde said in Filipino last week. – with a report from Rambo Talabong/Rappler.com