This is from the Manila Times There follows a news report on the Glorietta bombing plus an editorial. The editorial is relatively conservative and is rather miffed by the speculative theories about the bombing. The newspaper on the other hand reports the speculation. This speculation is bound to be fueled by the circumstances; Arroyo is in deep trouble re bribes and there are rumours of troubles in the Armed Forces. Abu Sayyaf has actually denied being responsible. However, it is still a prime suspect. There is a long way to go yet in the investigation. No doubt many will be sceptical about the investigators themselves.
Glorietta explosives are ‘of military type’
By Anthony Vargas, Reporter
AMID allegations by Magdaló rebel-turned-senator Antonio Trillanes 4th that Malacañang is resurrecting its Oplan Greenbase that saw bombings in different parts of the country to create a panic situation and justify a state of national emergency, police forensics experts expressed belief that “military” type of explosives were used in the deadly explosions at the high-end Glorietta mall in Makati City Friday afternoon.
President Gloria Arroyo has already described the said incident at the Glorietta Mall in which nine people were killed, scores injured, and one missing as an act of “terrorism”.
A police post investigation report said that two explosions occurred inside the mall, causing heavy damage to it. One explosion occurred at the mall’s atrium at the ground, and the other one at the delivery dock of the mall.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Director General Avelino Razon Jr., said based on initial findings, traces of highly explosive materials were found at the blast site.
The explosion left an eight meter-wide (26 foot) crater on the ground floor and blew a hole through the roof on the second floor.
“Chemical analysts have identified the chemical RDX as present in the blast site,” Razon said in a press briefing in Camp Crame.
Said the PNP chief, RDX is the main base component of powerful explosives such as C4 and TNT, used by terrorists in past bombing attacks.
PNP Crime Lab Director, Chief Supt. Arturo Cacdac Jr., said initial post-blast investigation had revealed traces of high-explosives materials from the blast sites.
“RDX was possibly used. But, we are still conducting confirmatory test on this one,” Cacdac said in the same press conferences.
RDX is commercially available. It is a major component of C4, a type of explosive material which only the military establishment uses, but can be bought at the black market.
Supt. Albert Ignatius Ferro, chief of the PNP Bomb Data Center, said that they could not yet immediately ascertain any particular group responsible for the bombing.
“We could presume those are military ordnance components, based on 2006 and 2005 data,” Ferro said in the same press conference.
The police report on the bombing was delivered at a top-level security meeting between the president and her security advisers at police headquarters in Manila.
Mrs. Arroyo immediately ordered the country’s police chief General Avelino Razon to check its source and pinpoint the culprits.
“Is that already definitive. . .or is there going to be another more detailed finding of what kind of explosive was used?,” she said during the briefing. “We need regular information bulletins on the status of the investigation.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th released a statement expressing belief that the Glorietta 2 mall blast is “the handiwork of Malacañang Palace, particularly National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon.”
“It very looks like a repeat of Oplan Greenbase, perpetrated by the administration in 2003 in Mindanao, where a series of bombings rocked the island, killing innocent people and destroying property,” explained Trillanes.
The bombings remain unexplained to this day, but Trillanes insisted that “this blast is most likely another tactic of the administration to divert public attention away from the controversies hounding GMA [Arroyo].”
“Like Oplan Greenbase, this blast is a pretext for assorted measures GMA may again concoct, like exercise of emergency powers, possibly even martial law, to justify repressive actions against the people to clamp down on peaceful protests and subdue the rising public clamor for her to resign,” Trillanes opined.
He added that “Malacañang has no compunction in doing this kind of dastardly act. Aside from the Mindanao bombings, this administration is also believed to be responsible for the extra-judicial killings. They have done it before. They will do it again, if not stopped from their tracks. They will do everything just to ensure that GMA stays in power.”
However, Trillanesís allegations were countered by Razon and Military chief, General Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who instead, hinted of possible involvement of Trillanesís Magdalo group who staged a short-lived mutiny on July 27, 2003.
“They have used C4 [before] and there are still some C4 that are still being accounted,” Esperon said in the same press briefing.
Security officials expect to narrow down the personalities behind or involved in the mall blast in the coming days.
Razon said the government was putting up a P2-million ($45,454) reward for any information leading to arrests.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which came weeks after military intelligence foiled an alleged plot by al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants to bomb the southern port city of Zamboanga.
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said authorities were also looking at the Abu Sayyaf as possible suspects, noting that the group may have carried it out as part of their campaign to attract funding from international terrorist groups.
The 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Saturday it is “prepared to gather intelligence for the Philippine authorities if asked to do so,” spokesman Eid Kabalu told AFP.
“We would like to help out if asked. This could help the military at least eliminate some groups from their list of suspects,” he said, adding that the offer was being made as a “sincere gesture” that could also help revive stalled peace talks.
Reports said officials from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are now helping Philippine police in the probe.
Throughout the night, bomb experts sifted through blast debris trying to find clues as to what sort of bomb was used.
The mall remained sealed Saturday, with a cordon of policemen guarding its perimeter.
Razon said the bomb was apparently left at a delivery bay near a popular Chinese restaurant at the mall shortly after lunch.
He said investigators were also reviewing closed circuit television cameras and interviewing survivors and witnesses.
Security in all malls, bus and train stations, as well as sea and airports have been intensified, Razon said, with elite police commandos patrolling streets.
The posh city of Makati, where Glorietta Mall is located, has weathered a bombing incident on Valentine’s Day in February 2005. Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants were blamed for the bombing of a bus near the mall that killed four people.
Militants also firebombed a ferry in Manila Bay the previous year, killing more than 100 people in the country’s worst terrorist attack.
--With AFP report
Manila Times Editorial
THE Makati bomb blast on Friday that killed nine and injured at least 129 others is a grim reminder that terrorism has grafted itself into the landscape and that we face a long ordeal taming it.
So strong was the blast that it tore off the ceiling on the first floor, knocked down walls, shattered windows and sent debris flying in all directions. Cars parked outside the mall did not escape damage.
The bomber took advantage of the huge crowd at the busy mall. The goal was to kill as many innocents and hurt scores of people, not unlike the bombings that have rocked public places in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If we are trying to link the tragedies in the Philippines and the Middle East, the reason is that international terrorists have found a haven in Southern Mindanao. The al-Qaeda organization and Jemaah Islamiah, its Asian claw, have joined forces with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists mainly in Sulu and Basilan to extend their reach to the Philippines and neighboring countries.
We do not expect the terrorists to claim authorship of the Makati blast, but they have a legacy of terrorism in the country, the latest being the Feb. 14, 2005, bombing of a passenger bus, also in Makati, and the firebombing of a ferry on Manila Bay a year earlier. Recent bombings in Southern Mindanao are being laid at the doorsteps of the Abu Sayyaf.
President Gloria Arroyo has ordered the police to solve the bombing and to identify and arrest the perpetrators. She has warned unfriendly sectors not to take advantage of the tragedy by fomenting more unrest or waging efforts to destabilize the government.
We are reassured by her pledge not to declare martial law. That would be an extreme move and will raise suspicions that the government desperately needs a diversion to draw public attention from a series of recent controversies it is mired in.
It is cynical and brazen of the politicians, bishops and businessmen to suggest that the government staged the bombing to create a sense of emergency that would replace the current obsessions with scandals that have prompted congressional investigations, media inquiries and public restiveness.
The bombing is a setback for the economy and a blot on law and order. The victims will need long-term care. Politicians will feast on the misfortune for publicity and partisan ends. It’s a sad day for the country.
The next step
WHILE the government attends to the needs of the victims and their families, it ought to consider weightier steps to improve public safety and to turn the table on terrorism and lawlessness.
We need more than battlefield training from the US soldiers taking part in the Balikatan war games or the ones who have stayed permanently in Mindanao. We need to upgrade our expertise in intelligence gathering and analysis to deal with terrorism in the long term.
The government could win a great part of the war by moving one step ahead of the enemy, by knowing his character, tactics and strength. Developing excellence in intelligence work and sharing information with other countries could help thwart the enemy. Friends like Israel, Japan and the United States can help.
Poor investigation, evidence gathering and a deficient crime laboratory have stymied much of police work. Police expertise in crime-scene investigation is very unsatisfactory. The national police and the National Bureau of Investigation need to upgrade their skills in CSI and arson investigation. This way they could solve more crimes, including those carried out by terrorists.
The media have not reported if the Makati shopping mall uses closed-circuit television. CCTV, as the London police have discovered, is a great aid in the identification of criminals and crime suspects, Private businesses, especially banks and those that attract shoppers, should be encouraged to install electronic eyes on their premises.
We support the police effort to install a network of closed-circuit TV in public places. There is no erosion of personal privacy on the street, the plazas and the transportation stops. But the campaign to take pictures of passengers before they board buses is intrusive. There should be a better way to identify thieves who victimize passengers.
Congress has passed the antiterrorism act; the government should enforce it with vigor. Objections to the law, coming from civil libertarians, should be considered by our legislators. The law is not meant to stop petty criminals but the terrorists and their accomplices.
The private security establishment plays an important role in public safety. The government, together with private business, should spend money on upgrading the skills of the “blue guards” and consider them an arm of the law. Professionalizing the security force will strengthen peace in the community.
Vigilance is all. Every citizen—the public—should keep his eyes and ears open to threats or signs of danger to public order. Reporting strange-looking packages or informing the police about persons behaving suspiciously could help prevent a crime and stop a perpetrator.