Wednesday, January 26, 2011

'Cell phone set off bomb' | The Philippine Star News Headlines

'Cell phone set off bomb' | The Philippine Star News Headlines

COMMENT: The PNP publicly announced that 81MM Mortar Shell was used in the Buendia Bus Bombing. In my opinion, the public don't need to know that detail. That info is supposed to be secret because it should be used by the PNP to validate future claims of responsibility by any group who perpetrated it -- if the claimant can tell the material used, then their claim could be true. The PNP is now left with nothing to validate. Tingnan nyo ang gobyerno, lahat na politiko nakisawsaw na ng kanilang kanya-kanyang speculation papogi sa media, iba-ibang speculation -- maya-maya gagamit na yan sila ng bulilyo ng Jueteng para i-raffle ang mga gusto nilang pinag-sususpetsahan. Do you want to know who is the first one to "tell" the motive of the bombing? Click Here. // JRP

Cell phone set off bomb
By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) Updated January 27, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The explosion that ripped apart a bus in Makati the other day, killing five passengers, was caused by a mortar bomb triggered by a mobile phone, police said yesterday.

The rigged explosive is typically used by Islamic extremists, raising the likelihood that the bombing was a terrorist attack.

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Raul Bacalzo made the revelation during a hearing of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs on what it described as the worsening peace and order situation in Metro Manila.

In Malacañang, President Aquino appealed for calm and asked the public not to resort to speculations.

Bacalzo said the improvised explosive device (IED) used in the bombing was an 81-mm mortar shell with a cell phone as remote trigger.

Bacalzo said investigators were checking if the same type of IED was used in past terror attacks, particularly in Central Mindanao.

“That’s the thing we are following up because according to the EOD (explosives and ordnance division), it’s an 81-mm mortar. If it’s a mortar, then the component was TNT,” Bacalzo told reporters after the hearing.

“We don’t want to speculate, but these are operational data we would like to pursue. We will see if there is similarity in style with other bombings in the past,” he said.

National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Nicanor Bartolome said investigators are reconstructing the cell phone that was reportedly used as a triggering device.

Police also said they have sketches of two suspects but would not release them yet so as not to jeopardize the investigation.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, for his part, said the attack should not be totally blamed on failure of intelligence.

He said it was like looking for needle in a haystack.

He said even the most sophisticated, more equipped and richer nations have difficulty monitoring terror attacks in their own countries.

He said it’s still “too premature to pinpoint at this time” if terrorists or extortionists were responsible for Tuesday’s attack.

In the hearing, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed concern that the bombing could be a terror act since the Philippines, based on some reports, is “often seen as a staging area” of international terror groups. He noted that even Iraqi extremists use mortar shells for IEDs in terror attacks.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also rebuffed claims that there was failure of intelligence. “We take all of these seriously. At this point it cannot be said that we were not serious. What I mean is steps were taken. But this slipped past us. Why did this happen? If a person is determined, he would manage to carry out his evil intentions one way or another,” Gazmin said.

“We’re doing our job but you must remember the big area that we are looking at,” he added.

The explosion inside the Newman Goldliner bus killed two passengers instantly and wounded more than a dozen. Three of the injured later died in hospital.

Killed in the blast were FX taxi driver Salustiano Marino, 57; culinary arts student Johanson Reyes, 24 and girlfriend Kristel Ausena; Jhonlie Daquiaog, 24, and Iris Tiniola.

Foreign link unlikely

Reacting to Marcos’ concern, Bacalzo said the PNP, being a member of the Anti-Terrorist Council, is continuously coordinating with its foreign counterparts to counter terrorism.

Bacalzo and Bartolome maintained that international terror group Jemaah Islamiyah and its local counterpart, Balik Islam, have not been active in recent months.

“Nonetheless, we are looking into all angles, into everything be it international or local,” Bacalzo added.

“When we speak of specific threats, we’ve not detected anything. Information is discussed with other law enforcement agencies for validation and exchange of notes with our counterparts. In our discussions, there are no specific threats that we have gathered,” Bartolome said.

Aquino’s security adviser Cesar Garcia told ABS-CBN News Muslim militants might be behind the attack.

“The fact that... the device used was an improvised explosive device similar to the ones used by terrorist organizations in the southern Philippines raises the possibility it was a terrorist attack,” he said.

While Garcia said it was too early to say who was behind the blast, he pointed out it was similar to a bus bombing on EDSA that killed four people and injured 36 others on Feb. 14, 2005.

“Investigations into the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombing showed the suspects rode the bus, carried the (bomb) in a backpack, left the backpack, got off... (and) detonated the bomb with the use of a cell phone,” he said.

The Abu Sayyaf, a small group of Islamic militants blamed for the nation’s worst terrorist attacks and a string of kidnappings, claimed credit for the 2005 attack, although it has remained silent following Tuesday’s explosion.

Garcia emphasized that militant groups from the south had long wanted to launch attacks in Manila.

“Metro Manila has always been a long-term aspirational target of the organizations operating in the southern Philippines,” Garcia said.

Communist hand

But for Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the communist armed wing the New People’s Army might have had a hand in the bombing.

“I cannot believe that that is the work of terrorists and simple criminals. Find out if that has relation with what’s going on in rural areas. There was a bombing in my province. There were bombings like that in Mindanao. We’ve experienced that before,” Enrile said.

“They brought their bombing operation in Metro Manila. The classic case is Plaza Miranda,” Enrile said, referring to the 1971 bomb attack on the Liberal party rally at Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila.

The Senate president was the defense minister at the time.

He said peace and order has always been a “challenge to the administration, whether it’s an old administration or a new one.”

“I have my doubts. I will not discount it but to me it’s remote,” he said referring to the terrorist angle.

“If it’s international terrorists, they’ll blow up trains if they really want to make a big impact, they should’ve hit the LRT. There are lots of people there that would be killed. International terrorists would blow up trains, they can blow up a mall, theater to deliver the biggest impact on the world’s consciousness,” Enrile said.

Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said administration officials should not have downplayed the travel advisories issued by the US and some of its Western allies two months ago.

“Just tell us if there is a terrorist threat then mobilize the people... tell us to watch out for bags that are left behind, for suspicious personnel or criminals around the community so we can always be alert,” Zubiri said.

No destabilization

The military could not have carried out Tuesday’s bus bombing as part of a coup attempt since it has already “gone a long way professionally,” Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya said yesterday.

Abaya is a former Navy officer and a party mate of President Aquino in the Liberal Party (LP). He chairs the House appropriations committee.

“The President is on top of the situation. Government will make sure those who perpetrated this will be arrested and put in jail,” he said.

“This is an isolated case, but let us not dispel the probability that there might be a script to this,” he added.

Another party mate of the President, Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III, voiced the LP’s condemnation of the bombing.

“Although this is an isolated case, it is clear that there are terrorists in our society who are out to embarrass PNoy. We would like to assure our peace-loving citizens that PNoy and our law enforcement agencies are on top of the situation and will be able to solve this unfortunate incident in the coming days,” he said.

Rep. Emmeline Aglipay of the party-list group Diwa also condemned the bombing.

“I hope that the reason behind the bomb blast may be brought to light and that the persons responsible may be apprehended immediately. I call on the public to remain calm but alert,” she said.

For his part, Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna said his group “condemns the bombing of a passenger bus in Makati and calls on the authorities to leave no stone unturned in pursuing the perpetrators.”


Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said investigators should explore all angles, including the possibility that carjack syndicates carried out the attack to divert the attention of authorities from their intensified campaign against car theft.

“That’s a possibility. There are criminal syndicates who have cohort or conspirators from within security forces including the PNP,” De Lima told reporters.

“While we cannot make any conclusion because it will be very premature we cannot let our guard down by focusing on one angle, like the terrorism angle because it could be anything,” she stressed.

She said she has instructed the NBI to conduct a parallel probe on the incident.

The bombing incident prompted former North Cotabato congresswoman and now Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza to renew her call for transport authorities and the PNP to immediately train and deploy armed bus marshals.

In a statement, she said these marshals would “detect, deter and suppress hostile acts targeting the nation’s public buses, terminals and passengers.”

Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, for his part, called on authorities to “wake up” and swiftly solve the case. “Let us do all we can as soon as possible to investigate the root of the attack,” he said.

Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani asked law enforcers to hone their skills in fighting criminals, saying “we are living in extraordinary days.”

“The people trust you because you are honest. Now, their trust would serve as a foundation of your competence. Show that you are not only a good man but also have the capability to become a good leader,” he said in radio message addressed to Aquino.

For Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, the terror attack calls for “communal action.”

“Yes, when we say communal action people must be involved in maintaining peace and order and this is a responsibility of everybody,” Gutierrez said.

MILF denial

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denied involvement in the attack, which it called “satanic.”

“We are condemning the act. It’s a satanic act. We have nothing to do with that,” MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal said.

He said the fact that an 81-mm was used in the attack doesn’t mean the MILF was responsible.

In Cotabato City, Weena Bus management has beefed up security following the Makati bus bombing.

Weena had been the target of several attacks by extortionists.

President Aquino tried to calm residents in a televised news conference shortly after Tuesday’s blast, promising his government will not allow fear to settle in.

He and other officials have not named any specific group, but suggested the possible involvement of al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants.

Aquino said he directed his national security adviser to reassess threats that reportedly came from terrorist groups last year and that prompted several countries, including Australia, Britain and the US, to put in place travel warnings. At the time, the government had not found the threats credible and the warnings infuriated Aquino.

Investigators were also looking into the background of the wounded and the dead, police Chief Superintendent Jose Arnel de los Santos said. His statement suggested that one of the passengers may have been carrying the explosive when it went off prematurely. With Jess Diaz, Rose Tamayo, Evelyn Macairan, Jose Rodel Clapano, Edith Regalado, Jaime Laude, Roel Pareño, Sandy Araneta, Mike Frialde, Aie Balagtas See, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marvin Sy, Edu Punay, Non Alquitran, AP