Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
ABRIDGED PROGRESS REPORT
June 2003 – March 2004
INDEPENDENT FACT FINDING MISSION
ON THE MINDANAO BOMBINGS &
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
March 3, 2004
Davao City, Philippines
One year after the deadly March 4 bombing of the Davao International Airport, the peoples of Mindanao, most especially the people of Davao,
continue to seek the truth and cry for justice.
The Mindanao Truth Commission hereby submits to the public the initial results of its Independent Fact Finding Mission on the Mindanao Bombings and Human Rights Violations.
Given the breadth and sheer immensity of the task of uncovering the truth behind the mystery bombings and human rights violations in Mindanao,
not to mention the very limited resources of a citizen-led initiative,
it is simply impossible to immediately conclude the Mission after at least
eight months of work.
However, the Commission has, indeed, covered relatively substantial ground and is now submitting to the public a Progress Report on its
Independent Fact Finding Mission.
The following is the Mindanao Truth Commission's Abridged Progress
Report on the Independent Fact Finding Mission on the Mindanao Bombings and Human Rights Violations. The Abridged Report covers the period June 2003, upon the formation of the Mindanao Truth Commission, until March 2004, upon the commemoration of the first anniversary of the Davao bombings.
This Abridged Report is an abstraction of its more than 150-page Progress
Report which covers the following:
- Chapter 1 The Mindanao Context
- a. Socio Demographic Profile
- b. Brief History
- Chapter 2 The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
- Chapter 3 The Mindanao Truth Commission
- a. Framework of the Independent Fact Finding Mission
- b. Timetable
- c. Decorum
- d. Composition
- Chapter 4 Presentation of Data/Evidences
- a. The 7 IFFM Sessions and Data/Evidences Gathered
- b. The Mindanao Bombings (A Chronology)
- c. The Mindanao Bombings (A Perspective)
- d. Summary of Legal Cases
- e. Summary of Individuals Charged by the State (As Suspects)
- f. The Mindanao Human Rights Situation (A Profile)
- g. The Mindanao Human Rights Situation (A Perspective)
- Chapter 5 Initial Findings
- Chapter 6 Initial Recommendations
This Executive Summary lifts only the salient points from Chapters 1-
4 and focuses mainly on Chapter 5 – Initial Findings, as well as presents in
whole the initial recommendations. Annexes cover the exhibits and
references compiled by the MTC.
Thirty three (33) bombing incidents occurring under the Arroyo
administration's watch have caused a loss of 95 lives, and injuries
to 490 others. Majority, if not all, of the victims were civilians. To the
general public, 32 of these bombings remain a mystery, in so far as no group has claimed responsibility for any of the blasts. No one, thus far, has
been declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt of perpetrating any of the 33 bombing incidents by a Philippine court of competent jurisdiction.
The biggest "jolt" that rocked the nation and the island's sensibilities was
the 4 March 2003 Davao International Airport bombing and the 2 April
2003 Sasa Wharf explosion. A total of 38 civilians were killed in the two
terror blasts and at least 180 others were injured.
However, of the 33, one bombing incident almost claimed the life of the alleged bomber itself, Michael Terrence Meiring, on 16 May 2003 at Evergreen Hotel in Davao City. The "escape" of Meiring from Davao City to
Manila and out of the country despite the pendency of criminal charges filed against him has been the subject of speculations that such was made possible by the covert participation of the United States Embassy in the Philippines and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The circumstances that shroud the "accidental" detonation of Meiring's bomb make it eligible as a "mystery bombing"
Aside from these "mysterious bombings," the armed conflict between
the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic
Liberation Front and between the GRP and the Communist Party of the
Philippines/New People's Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF)
is a growing concern for the island's peoples. The Moro people's armed
revolution for self-governance has been raging for decades, even as the
government has been at war with the CPP/NPA/NDF since 1968.
The government's policy of all-out war against armed revolutionary
movements in Mindanao have taken their toll on the lives and properties of the people. For one, the military operation launched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the MILF in Pikit, Cotabato in February 2003 displaced almost half a million Moro and Christian families. Hundreds of evacuees, mostly women and children, suffered from an outbreak of diseases, lack of food, shelter, stress, trauma, and other war-related ailments. The same incidents of displacements were caused by military offensives in Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, some parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula and neighboring towns of Pikit in North Cotabato.
It was within this social milieu that the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao
(InPeace Mindanao) was conceived.
InPEACE Mindanao is a broad-based, inter-faith, and multisectoral
peace movement that facilitates Mindanao-wide peace initiatives through
peace forums, dialogues and conferences, prayer rallies, and other
InPEACE Mindanao was conceived during the 48-hour ultimatum by the
United States on Iraq. At this time, Mindanao religious leaders have
started consulting each other on how they could respond to the inevitable war declaration. At this time also, the war in Pikit had already affected
more than 100,000 people who were forced to evacuate due to the
heightening tension. Weeks later, the bombings in Davao City occurred and
prodded the Mindanao leaders to issue a condemnation.
InPEACE Mindanao circulated a Manifesto for Peace to denounce the war
on Iraq and raise concern towards the war in Mindanao.
Meanwhile, a parallel effort was being made by Cagayan de Oro City
Mayor Vicente Y. Emano through his Dialogue for Peace On-Air, a Mindanao-wide radio-forum simulcast. Several bishops and Mindanao leaders, including representatives from the National Democratic Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front participated in the forum. InPEACE Mindanao supported the subsequent simulcasts and agreed with the Cagayan de Oro Mayor that a Mindanao Peace Conference was urgently needed to draw in more Mindanao leaders to discuss on urgent peace issues in the island such as the Balikatan Exercises, All-Out War in Mindanao, the "mystery bombings" and the plight of evacuees.
InPEACE Mindanao launched the Mindanao Leaders Peace Conference on
May 13-14 in Cagayan de Oro City. The MLPC adopted two major calls: 1) The resumption of the Peace Negotiations between the GRP-NDFP and the GRP-MILF, and 2) Conduct of an Independent Fact Finding Mission on the "mystery" bombings in Mindanao and the human rights violations in the island ensuing from militarization, international humanitarian law violations ensuing from AFP-MILF and AFP-NPA armed engagements.
The Conference also resolved to hold Mindanao Peace Forums and
regional peace forums, and other peace actions. Mindanao Peace Forums have been launched in Davao City with Vice Pres. Teofisto Guingona, as well as in Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Cotabato City, Ozamis City, Butuan City, and Maguindanao province.
Mandated by the Mindanao Leaders' Peace Conference to conduct the
Independent Fact Finding Mission, InPeace formed the Mindanao Truth
THE MINDANAO TRUTH COMMISSION
The Mindanao Truth Commission is an independent and citizen-initiated
body that has been formed by the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace Mindanao) to fulfill the mandate of the Mindanao Leaders Peace
Conference held last May 13-14, 2003 in Cagayan de Oro City. The Conference was called a few months after the twin bombings that hit Davao City on March 4 and April 2, 2003.
The MTC is the mechanism that concretizes the second major call of the Mindanao Leaders Peace Conference for an Independent Fact Finding
Mission on the Mindanao bombings and on the human rights situation.
The MTC was formed on June 25, 2003, in Davao City, after the InPeace
Mindanao Convenors approved the Framework for the Independent Fact
Finding Mission. It was in that meeting that the MTC composition and
workings were formalized and set into motion.
The MTC's fact finding mission is focused on two principal concerns, namely:
1. The `mystery' bombings that have rocked Mindanao, foremost of
which are the March 4, and April 2, 2003 bombings in Davao City; and
2. The intensifying violations of human rights and international
humanitarian laws in the course of the armed conflict between the
parties in general.
Its specific objectives are to:
a. Present an analysis of facts and circumstances related to
the "mystery bombings" in Mindanao;
b. Determine the veracity of alleged human rights abuses arising
from the declaration of a "state of lawless violence' in Davao City and
the operations of the Task Force Davao;
c. Determine violations of human rights and international
humanitarian laws arising from recent AFP-MILF and AFP-NPA military engagements or from purely AFP operations in identified areas, and in the context of the armed conflict between the parties in general;
d. Determine the situation of victims of forced evacuation/internal
displacement resulting from the AFP-MILF engagements or from purely
AFP operations, and in the context of the armed conflict between the
parties in general;
e. Formulate recommendations to the appropriate government
agencies, international human rights bodies, and other relevant groups and
Scope and Limitation
The fact finding mission falls short of the elements of a criminal
investigation. It therefore limited itself to gathering facts and
circumstances and making the most veritable analysis out of these
The mission has taken full use of affidavits, sworn statements, and
interviews, focus group discussions with affected individuals and
communities, oral testimonies, secondary data research, and other
methods of scientific data gathering.
The MTC is aided by Regional Investigating Teams tasked with
gathering data for their a particular regional concern. Regional
Investigating Teams and/or InPeace Regional Convenors were formed in
Southern Mindanao, Central Mindanao, Northern and Western Mindanao,
and SOCSKARGEN. These regional formations have been tasked to submit
reports and data to the MTC.
Nature of the Mission
The IFFM is a people's probe, hence, its proceedings must necessarily
be clear and direct to be understandable by a layman, without sacrificing
the integrity and probative value of the evidence said panel had gathered
along the way. Upon the evidence gathered its findings and conclusions are
drawn and the initial or final report, as the case may be, are based and
anchored. The admissibility of the evidence gathered, if to be presented in
any judicial proceeding in the future, are referred by the panel with the
lawyers' groups affiliated with the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao for
Nature and Character of the Panel
The MTC is a people's forum, not a court. It is not bound by the strict
judicial rules of procedure. It only issues invitations to parties who may
have testimonial or documentary evidence in their possession that may
help unravel the mystery of the bombings and present cases of human rights violations. Those who wished to accept its invitation were therefore
guests, hence, deserving to be treated with respect and decorum.
Submission of Report
The MTC is accountable to the InPeace Mindanao Convenors and to the
Mindanao Leaders Peace Conference. Thus, its report is to be made public to the InPeace Mindanao network. Copies of its report are to be compiled
and published, and furnished the following:
1. Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
2. Vice Pres. Teofisto Guingona
3. Senate and appropriate committees
4. House of Representatives and appropriate committees
5. Armed Forces of the Philippines
6. Commission on Human Rights
7. National Democratic Front of the Philippines
8. Moro Islamic Liberation Front of the Philippines
9. Amnesty International
10. United Nations and other appropriate UN bodies
11. Organization of Islamic Conference
12. Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
13. National Council of Churches in the Philippines
14. Ulama League of the Philippines
16. INPEACE Mindanao Convenors
17. Other relevant groups/organizations
IFFM SESSIONS CONDUCTED
The following IFFM Sessions were conducted in various parts
October 12-13, 2003 Jesus of Nazareth Parish
Nazareth, Cagayan de Oro City
October 16, 2003 The Tower Inn
Quirino Avenue, Davao City
November 13, 2003 Mother Francisca Spirituality Center
& Notre Dame of Lagao School
Lagao, General Santos City
December 6-7, 2003 San Lorenzo Ruiz Seminar and Retreat House
Ampayon, Butuan City
December 8-9, 2003 United Church of Christ in the
Philippines Shalom Center
Legaspi Street, Davao City
January 26, 2004 The Tower Inn
Quirino Avenue, Davao City
February 24, 2004 Lispher Inn
Juna Subdivision, Matina, Davao City
A total of 46 guests, who were later considered key
informants upon the submission of their oral and written testimonies and other documentary evidences, appeared in the seven IFFM sessions conducted by the Commission.
SUMMARY OF INITIAL FINDINGS
At this juncture of the ongoing fact finding mission, the Mindanao
Truth Commission presents the following initial findings based on the data
gathered so far from various written and oral testimonies and secondary
1. The Commission identifies five (5) plausible suspects in the "mystery" bombings in Mindanao:
1.A. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, on account of PEOPLE OF THE
PHILIPPINES VS. SALAMAT HASHIM, et.al, Case No. 51,886-03 for
Multiple Murder with Frustrated Murder, lodged before Branch 12, Regional
Trial Court in Davao City;
1.B. The Abu Sayaf Group, on account of the public pronouncements, a
few hours after the 4 March 2003 Davao International Airport bombing, of
one Kumander Hamsiraji Sali, who claimed to be a leader of the said group
and had apologized for the unintended consequences of the said bombing;
1.C. The so-called "Third Force," on account of the affidavit of Mr. Hadji
Abdullah "Lacs" Dalidig, chairman of the Muslim Multisectoral Movement
for Peace and Development or MMPD, based in Marawi City; in his affidavit,
Mr. Dalidig quotes President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as allegedly having
expressed her fears of the "Third Force," and which was allegedly identified
by Secretary Norberto Gonzales as the group that was responsible for
the bombing of Davao City;
1.D. The State, on account of the allegations of junior officers of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that then Defense Secretary
Angelo Reyes and then chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Victor Corpus; specifically on account of the affidavits of Capt. Milo Maestrecampo, Lt. Kristofer Bryan Yasay, and Lt. Enrico Dingle, that they were allegedly ordered by their battalion commander Major Rene Paje to lob grenades at particular mosques in Davao City;
1.E. Michael Terrence Meiring, on account of allegations that the United
States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), through him, is faking terror
bombings in the Philippines. Meiring is a purported British-American
treasure hunter, whose bomb he was allegedly handling accidentally
exploded, severing his left leg and severely burning parts of his body, on May 16, 2002 at Evergreen Hotel in Davao City. Reliable sources quoted by
media agencies identified Meiring as a US CIA agent deployed in Mindanao.
Suspicious circumstances surrounded Meiring's "escape" from criminal
liability by way of an alleged intervention by a United States Embassy
official who effected his being spirited out of the country despite the issuance of a warrant by Judge Isaac Robillo, Jr. of Branch 13, 11th
Judicial Region, Regional Trial Court, on 13 June 2002. The Davao City
Prosecutor's office had taken note of Meiring's surreptitious flight to
avoid investigation and arrest in its Motion for the Issuance of a Hold
Departure Order on 3 July 2002.
2. In relation to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as a suspect
in the March 4 Davao International Airport and April 2 Sasa Wharf bombings, the Commission finds that the State's case against the MILF is not based on or supported by solid legal evidence.
2.A. There is no solid legal evidence to support the "conspiracy theory" of
the State against the MILF leadership as having masterminded the March
4 DIA and April 2 Sasa Wharf bombings. On the contrary, the cases against
the alleged MILF `foot soldiers,' whose links with the alleged masterminds
must be plausibly established, have been dismissed one after the other by
the courts of competent jurisdiction.
The principal angle being pursued by the State is that Montazer Sudang,
in conspiracy with Salamat Hashim and the MILF leaders, with brothers
Terso and Undongan Sudang, and other MILF members, were responsible for the bombing of the Davao International Airport on 4 March 2003.
The main witness for the State against Montazer Sudang is one Capt.
Medel Aguilar, a former intelligence officer of the 602nd Brigade,
Philippine Army who testifies that Montazer was a member of the MILF. His main piece of evidence is an alleged Personal Data Sheet of Montazer, and brothers Terso and Undongan Sudang, purportedly recovered during the fall of Camp Abubakar when former President Joseph Estrada launched an all-out offensive against the MILF.
The State's case THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. TERSO SUDANG and UNDONGAN SUDANG, Crim. Case No. 51,886-03 for Multiple Murder with Frustrated Murder, has been ordered DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence, following a re-investigation of the case, by Judge Paul T. Arcangel of the Regional Trial Court 11th Judicial Region Branch, ordered on April 11, 2003 in Davao City, Philippines.
The State's case PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES VS. SALAMAT HASHIM et. al.
is also currently undergoing reinvestigation by the City Prosecutors Office.
The Davao City Prosecutors Office has filed a motion for an extension of the reinvestigation of the case for another 30 days.
2.B. Extrajudicial confessions of questionable nature and whose admissability as evidence has been challenged by the defense, have also
been heavily relied upon as evidence; some of these confessions have been rectracted by the accused and questioned by their relatives. Three
Affidavits of Retraction have been submitted by the counsel of accused
Jimmy Balulao and Tohamie Bagundang.
Accused Jimmy Balulao states in his Affidavit of Retraction that he vehemently denies having willingly given a free and voluntary statement
before police investigators, that he was allegedly intimidated, tortured,
and forced to admit to having participated in the bombing of Davao
International Airport on March 4, 2003, that the alleged lawyer
present in the investigation to assist him was not his personal choice. Accused Tohamie Bagundang also claims to have been tortured.
2.C. Illegal arrests and illegal detention of suspects have been resorted to
by the State, indicating its recklessness in nabbing suspects without
presenting the proper warrants of arrest, as can be deduced from the
absurdity of the cases filed against certain accused in the Davao bombings.
This is demonstrated in the State's case PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
VS. ISMAEL MAMALANGKAS, Crim. Case No. 51,123-03 wherein the case against once of the accused, Emran Gumanod, was DISMISSED for insufficiency of evidence.
2.D. The Commission finds that, so far, the claim that a Special Urban
Terrorist Action Group (SUTAG), a supposed arm of the Al-Qaeda terrorist
network, of the MILF was behind the Davao bombings, is yet to be proven
or substantiated with legal evidence by the State. Intelligence information
bombarded and saturated to the public through media declarations by police, military and civilian authorities have not been substantiated with
tangible legal evidence against the MILF. It appears that the public had been fed with intelligence information that had later not been solidly
substantiated in court.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was quoted in news reports as asserting
that the MILF's SUTAG was behind the Davao bombings. However, there appears to be a lack of certainty for this claim, as evinced by Mayor
Duterte's pronouncement himself when he said: "…it would not be entirely
correct to say that the MILF did it but it would not be wrong to say the MILF
knows something. It is impossible that the MILF does not know. (The Mindanao Times, April 8, 2003, pp. 4, 21)"
That solid evidence is necessary to establish link between the MILF
and the AL-QAEDA network is echoed by President Gloria Macapagal-
Arroyo herself, here quoted by Mindanews as saying that: "(Mayor Duterte)
may have his own reasons for believing that the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) has something to do with the bombing (but) any action must be based on evidence so that justice can be served." (The Mindanao Times, April 8, 2003, pp. 4, 21)"
2.E. State pronouncements and action have also shown its lack of resolve or its dilemma to pursue charges against the MILF.
The creation of the Maniwang Commission by virtue of a Presidential
Executive Order has, by implication, put to serious question the State's
sweeping and unsubstantiated theory that the MILF masterminded the
Davao bombings. The State was compelled to establish an independent probe body on the Davao bombings due to the public declaration of Lt. SG. Antonio Trillanes IV et. al. that then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes and
Gen. Victor Corpus, then chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed
Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), had a hand in the Davao bombings of March 4 and April 2, 2003.
The testimony of Datu Haji Lacs Dalidig that President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo herself, and affirmed by her Cabinet Secretaries present during
an alleged conversation among the said parties in Iligan City last 14
June 2003, believes the existence of the "Third Force" which was allegedly
responsible for Davao bombings, erodes the State's resolve that the MILF was behind the attacks.
3. In relation to the so-called "Third Force" as a suspect in the Davao
bombings, the Commission takes notice of allegations that the State
may have had knowledge of the existence of such group and that the State
believed it to be behind the Davao bombings.
3.A. Datu Haji Lacs Dalidig of the Muslim Multisectoral Movement for Peace and Development based in Marawi City testified that in his conversation with Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on June 14, 2003, a few months after the Davao bombings, he quotes her, as saying, that a Third Force, not the MILF, was responsible for the bombing. The alleged conversation which took place at the Alsons Guest House in Iligan was pre-arranged by Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon
Soliman, and transpired in the company of Secretary Norberto Gonzales,
Secretary Teresita Deles, Secretary Renato de Villa, and Congressman
3.B. The claim of Mr. Dalidig had likewise been published in the Philippine
Graphic, 28 July 2003 issue, written by Inday Varona-Espinosa.
3.C. A similar reference to the so-called "Third Force" was made by
Philippine National Police Region XI Chief Supt. Isidro Lapena, quoted
by Ms. Aurea Gerundio of Sunstar Davao, April 8, 2003.
3.D. The Commission is yet to find evidence of the veritable existence
of a Third Force. If the allegations in the affidavit of Haji Lacs Dalidig
are found true, the State becomes suspect for not divulging in public the
existence of such a Third Force and the identities behind this armed group,
aside from the suspicion that the State charged the MILF despite its purported knowledge that the Third Force was behind the DIA blast.
4. In relation to the State as a suspect in the bombings in Davao and
other areas of Mindanao, the Commission takes cognizance of serious
allegations of state-sponsored terrorism by the group of junior officers in
the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involved in the Oakwood Siege
of 27 July 2003; the Commission also finds suspicious circumstances
lending credence to the Commission's questions particularly on the hasty
clean-up of the scene of the crime of the March 4 DIA bombing; the Commission finds substantial evidence that the AFP ordered a special operation to lob grenades at mosques.
4.A. The Commission takes cognizance of the allegations of the group
of junior officers in the AFP that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
then Department of National Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and then chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus, were behind the Davao bombings and that the AFP is engaged in the selling of weapons and ammunitions to the New People's Army, the Abu Sayaf, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The group of junior military officers, led by LTSG. Antonio Trillanes IV,
has asserted in their statement entitled "Message to the Filipino People"
and released on 27 July 2003 (salient portions herewith quoted), that
the State is engaged in the selling of firearms to its known enemies:
LTSG. Trillanes IV, et. al. further asserts that former DND Secretary Angelo Reyes and former ISAFP chief Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus were
responsible for the March 4 DIA and April 2 Sasa Wharf bombing and
that their motive was to effect the tagging of the MILF as a terrorist group
and to pave the way for US military financial and logistical aid. The said group further claims that another motive of the State was to effect the declaration of Martial Law so that the incumbent President can be perpetuated in power beyond 2004. They also alleged that the declaration
of Martial Law would be done through a series of bombings in Metro Manila
which would be blamed on different groups. The start of this operation,
they alleged, was the escape of Fathur Al-Ghozi. The group capped their
statement by saying that "the real terrorists are inside our government."
4.A.1. The Commission takes notice of President Arroyo's acceptance of
the resignation of Secretary Angelo Reyes from his post at the DND and of
Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus from the ISAFP which the Commission perceives as a possible response to the public clamor for an investigation into their
possible hand in the issues alleged by the junior military officers. The Commission also takes notice of the formation of the Independent
Commission on the Davao Bombings, publicly announced by President Arroyo in her 28 July 2003 State of the Nation Address but formed formally only as the Maniwang Commission on September 2003.
4.A.2. The Commission also takes notice that even prior to the start of
formal hearings of the Maniwang Commission, both former Secretary Angelo Reyes and Brig. Gen. Victor Corpus were "re-appointed" to government positions—Reyes as "Ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism" and Corpus as head of the AFP's Civil Relations Group. That this action on the part of the State in effect has preempted the conduct of an impartial investigation by a State-created independent body, if not an absolution of any probably culpability arising from the allegations of LTSG. Antonio Trillanes, et. al., since both Reyes and Corpus were re-appointed to positions of power.
4.B. The Commission also finds suspicious circumstances lending credence to the Commission's questions particularly on the hasty clean-up of the
scene of the crime of the March 4 DIA bombing.
4.B.1. In relation to the Davao International Airport bombing which occurred 5:15 pm of March 4, the State can not fully account for the
suspiciously hasty and rushed clean-up of the scene-of-the-crime early morning of March 5, 2003 before the arrival of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in clear violation of preserving the body of the crime (corpus delicti) upon which any criminal case hinges and proceeds and which raises serious questions on the identity of the perpetrators.
One of the investigators from the 11th Regional Criminal Investigation
and Detection Unit (RCIDU) who was personally involved in the DIA
investigation, PO1 Fernando Sta. Ana, Jr., orally testified before the Commission that, considering that there were only "a few qualified post-blast investigators at that time," the investigators took a rest due to exhaustion. He said that when the investigators came back to the scene of the crime, they found out that the site was already cleaned up by the Fire Marshall.
Part of PO1 Sta. Ana, Jr.'s testimony reads:
"…Considering that there were only a few qualified post-blast investigators
at that time, we were all exhausted. It's not necessarily a fact na hindi
nabantayan (that there was no vigilance). Maybe, perhaps maybe, I would
like to emphasize the word, the Fire Marshall at the airport believed na
tapos na, kasi wala ng tao duon (that the investigation was finished because there was no one around), but we were just taking a rest that time..."
4.B.2. The State has not identified the specific law enforcement unit or
civilian agency and their heads which gave the particular order to clean up
Police Investigator PO1 Fernando Sta. Ana, Jr., one of the investigators from the 11th Regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, in his
oral testimony before the Commission, pointed to the Philippine National
Police and the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit (SATU) as the ones handling
the post-blast forensic and metallurgical investigation.
Sta. Ana, Jr. also said that a Task Force DIA (Davao International Airport)
was formed after the bombing in order to coordinate the efforts ofvarious
law enforcement agencies. He said the RCIDU heads this task force and
that it receives all reports being submitted by other units.
The City Fire Marshall which was identified in reports to have actually
cleaned up with water hoses the scene of the crime, is under the Bureau
of Fire Protection, an agency directly under the Department of Interior
and Local Government (DILG), a civilian department. This would show that
its authorization to conduct the clean up would have come from civilian authorities.
4.B.3. The rushed clean up of the airport, and consequently, the destruction, contamination, tampering, or elimination of vital material
and physical evidence, violates fundamental principles and standard operating procedures in criminal investigation and is therefore a gravely
suspicious circumstance which the Commission is looking further into.
The Commission is led to raise the following questions in relation to the
suspiciously hasty clean-up of the scene-of-the-crime of the Davao International Airport bombing:
1. Who ordered the hasty clean up of the scene of the crime at
the expense of destroying vital material and physical evidence, and why?
2. Was the hasty clean-up of the airport a mere inadvertence as claimed
by a police investigator of the RCIDU XI or was there a willful intent
to destroy or eliminate material and physical evidence?
3. Who should be made answerable for the hasty clean-up? Why has the
State not exerted any serious effort to pinpoint the law enforcement unit or
civilian authority that gave such order? Why has the State not exerted
any serious effort to make that unit or authority accountable for the
inadvertence, lapse, or ineptitude?
4. If it is not a case of inadvertence or ineptitude in criminal investigation, is it possible that the hasty clean up was an attempt to tamper with or cover up vital material evidence and other circumstances related to the deadly blast?
5. Why has the State not exerted any serious effort to determine whether or not the clean-up was a mere inadvertence or a possible cover-up?
5. In relation, to the Abu Sayaf Group as a suspect in the March 4 DIA bombing, the Commission takes notice of the reported admission of the
said group that it was responsible for the DIA blast; the Commission also
finds that the State has inexplicably rejected sweepingly the Abu Sayaf's
admission that it was responsible for the DIA blast and has not made
consequent efforts to prosecute the said terror group.
5.A. A few hours after the blast, a certain Kumander Hamsiraji Sali
of the Abu Sayaf claimed responsibility for the attack and apologized
for "unintentionally" killing civilians. However, this admission was
dismissed by then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes as part of an MILF
ploy where the Abu Sayaf's role is to admit to the crime.
5.B. Despite the arrest of Galib Andang, renowned as Kumander Robot,
no effort has been done on the part of the State to subject Robot to
account for the claim.
5.C. The State's connivance with the Abu Sayaf has not been satisfactorily
cleared; reports and allegations about the AFP-ASG connivance are bolstered by the claims of Fr. Cirilo Nacorda, former parish priest of Lamitan, Basilan; Senator Sergio Osmena who claimed that some AFP generals partook of the ransom money paid by hostages; and American hostage Gracia Burnham.
6. There is substantial evidence that the AFP ordered a special operation to lob grenades at mosques
6.A. The sworn affidavits of Capt. Milo Maestrecampo, Lt. Yasay and
Lt. Dingle lend credence to the existence of a special order to lob
grenades at mosques. The testimony of Maj. Rene Paje admitting the existence of a special operation corroborates the claim of the 3 junior officers. In contrast to the `general' and `sweeping' denial of Maj. Paje, there is more weight to the detailed and thorough affidavits of his subordinates.
"…9. Sometime within the month, my Battalion Commander, Major Rene
Paje, informed me that he was asked to relay to me special orders
presumably coming from the 701st Brigade/Task Force Davao the unit exercising operational control over our battalion."
10. To my surprise, the orders relayed to me was to create a special
team for a covert operation with a mosque as a target. I was made to
understand that the operation involved the throwing of grenades at the mosque.
11. I immediately questioned the order because I told Major Paje that
civilians were not our enemies, so I told him straight, "Sir, hindi kalaban
yon." He told me that this was an order and he was merely relaying it
to me. When he noticed that I was not receptive to the idea, he just turned
his back at me and left.
12. Later, I learned that Major Paje went to Lt. Enrico Dingle, Company
Commander of the 12th Scout Ranger Company to give him the same order that was given to me. Lt. Dingle informed me that he too, refused the
The positive and categorical account of Capt. Maestrecampo is credibly
corroborated by other independent personal accounts:
Lt. Jose Enrico Dingle claims in his affidavit, salient portions of which are hereby quoted:
"…2. Sometime April of 2003, while I was the Company Commander of the
12th Scout Ranger Company assigned at Tuburan, Mawab, Compostela Valley Province, Major Paje of the 4th Scout Ranger Batallion went to see me. He informed me that he was ordered to relay to me an order emanating from the military hierarchy asking me to form a special operation team. Based on what he told me, I was made to understand that the mission would be to lob grenades at mosques in Madaum, Davao.
3. On the basis of the said information, I ordered my Executive Officer, 2nd
Lt. Kristopher Bryan Yasay to form the said team and to coordinate with
Major Paje for the details of the said mission.
4. My executive order (sic) immediately formed the team as requested
by Major Paje. I monitored the said team and took note that 2nd Lt.
Yasay coordinated with Major Paje for the implementation of the said
5. However, I learned that the team of Lt. Yasay was no longer used for
the said operation. There was no de-briefing for the said operation so I
did not find out why the mission was aborted. Not wanting to implement
such an order, I did not see it fit to find out the reasons why the same was
6. The next morning after I received the order, I was able to see Capt.
Milo Maestrecampo, Commanding Officer at that time of the 16th Scout
Ranger Company. During my conversation with him, I found out that he too received a similar order but that he found a way to turn down Major Paje..."
Lt. Dingle's affidavit is further corroborated by Lt. Yasay. Portions
of his affidavit state:
"…2. Sometime in April of 2003, while I was then the Executive Officer
of the 12th Scout Ranger Company, I was informed by my Commanding
Officer that an order emanating from the military hierarchy was relayed to him by Major Paje, ordering the formation of a special operation team.
3. According to Lt. Dingle, Major Paje asked for the formation of the
special operation team to use grenades and C-4 explosives to be lobbed at
mosques in Madaum, Tagum, Davao.
4. After I formed the team, Major Paje arrived to check on the team I
5. Suspecting that the mission was not a regular one, I asked Major
Paje if we were about to do anything illegal and that if he will be saving us
in case we are caught. He informed me that it was part of a bigger
operation where another unit will be patrolling the area at the time we were to conduct the operation. The said unit will be informed of our mission
and are aware of the vehicles we will be using. Major Paje told us that this
unit was ordered to respond to the explosion but it will allow our team to
leave the area after lobbing the grenades and explosives.
6. Major Paje ordered us to prepare the civilian vehicle that the company
had then but he asked us to remove all markings on the said vehicle. He
also asked us to prepare the motorcycle belonging to the fourth scout
ranger battalion. The grenade thrower was supposed to use this motorcycle
while the civilian jeep would serve as back up. He informed us that these
vehicles were known to the other unit who is supposed to respond to the
explosion and as long as we were in the said vehicles, we would not be apprehended.
7. We then stayed on alert the whole night. Fortunately, we were not
ordered to implement the mission that night. However, for about three more days, we were ordered to stay on alert. We were informed that we could be ordered to implement the mission any time.
8. Fortunately, no such order came…"
6.B. Capt. Maestrecampo further substantiates his claim by citing the
critical time gap occurring between the alleged order and the
supposed outcome of such order.
In his affidavit, Maestrecampo further states:
"…13. Four hours after I refused the order, the mosque that was
supposed to be the target of my special operation exploded. This led me to
conclude that the explosion was caused by our own troops..."
6.C. It is significant to note that Lt. Yasay alleged in his affidavit
that Maj. Paje ordered them to conceal evidence pointing to the alleged
Lt. Yasay states in his affidavit:
"…4… He asked us to scrape off the markings on the grenades we were
going to use to prevent anyone from tracing the origins of the said grenades. He likewise ordered us to remove the plastic wrappings of the C-4 so that the same may not be identified.
6.D. It is also crucial to note the allegation of Capt. Maestrecampo that he
exerted effort to inform the authorities, specifically an aide of President
Arroyo, about the alleged special order given him by Major Paje, and
that no investigation was done about his claim.
His affidavit states:
"13. … Thus, when I saw Lt. SG Christopher Magdangal, Aide de camp of
the Commander-in-Chief, I immediately told him to inform the President of
the illegal order given to me."
"14. To my dismay, no action or investigation was done about this…"
Aside from Lt. SG Christopher Magdangal who was approached by Capt.
Maestrecampo, one 1st Lt. Salimbangon of the Special Warfare Group was
also approached by Lt. Yasay to inform him of the alleged order. Lt.
Salimbangon also shared with Yasay that he too was given the same order.
Lt. Yasay states in his affidavit:
"…9. Subsequently, when we went to Panacan, Davao, to act as part of
the security contingent for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, I had the
opportunity to meet First Lt. Salimbangon of the Special Warfare Group,
an upperclass at the Philippine Military Academy. During that meeting,
we talked about the Sasa Wharf bombing and talked about how the military
could retaliate in such a situation. He informed me that he was ordered to
create a special operation team to bomb mosques in Davao as part of the
retaliatory measures but that he refused the said order. After hearing this, I informed he (sic) that I too was ordered to create such a special team…"
6.E. The actual occurrence of the lobbing of grenades and strafing at
mosques on April 3, 2003, a day after the Sasa Wharf bombing, point to
a pattern of attacks that appears to be well-organized in execution and
which could mean a possible corroboration to the formation of special
operations team allegedly ordered to be organized by Major Paje.
The attack at the mosque in Sitio Ilang, Barangay Tibungco, Davao
City occurred at 1:45 am by armed men alleged by residents to have used a maroon Isuzu Fuego 4x4 pick up. Witnesses, as claimed by the Mindanao Times story, said the suspects sped off to the downtown area, "where checkpoints were set up along the way by joint police and military forces following the explosion at the gate near the passenger terminal of the Sasa wharf at around 7:00pm Wednesay (April 2--- MTC).
Another grenade attack hit the mosque entrance at Mini-Forest, Quezon
Boulevard, in Barangay 23-C, Davao City, an hour after the Tibungco attack. Ten Muslims were praying at around 2:45 am of April 3, 2003,
according to Councilor Amilbangsa Manding, President of the Association of
Twenty minutes after the Mini-Forest attack, the mosque in Barangay Sirawan, Toril, South of Davao City, was lobbed with a grenade that landed on a farm of a Muslim resident some 50 meters away. The Ecoland mosque along Quimpo Boulevard, near SM City Mall was also reported by Muslim leaders to have been strafed with 5.56 mm bullets said to be coming from M-14 and M4 Carbine rifles.
6.F. There is a suspicious lack of interest on the part of the State to prosecute Major Paje on the basis of the detailed allegations in the Maestrampo/Dingle/Yasay affidavits and to determine which higher authority the alleged order came from. The State should have effected the
arrest of Paje based on these claims that he committed illegal and criminal
acts. On the contrary, the State has "promoted" Major Paje to the General
Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
6.F.1. The State's lack of interest to determine criminal liability for the
lobbing of grenades at mosques is further shown in the absence of a credible and serious investigation into the case.
6.G. The sworn affidavits of the 3 junior officers can be deemed credible
since their claims are "admissions against self-interest". At the risk of
jeopardizing their military career and personal security, the 3 junior
officers have made such positive and categorical claims. No motive can
thus be ascribed to the affiants in coming out with such allegations that
endanger their personal security and self-interests.
7. In relation to the emergence of Michael Terrence Meiring as a suspect in the terror bombings in Mindanao, the Commission finds substantial
evidence for such probable culpability and that his surreptitious flight from Davao, allegedly with the aid of the United States Federal Bureau of
Investigation agents, could be taken as an indication of guilt.
7.A. The explosion at the Evergreen Hotel caused by the mishandling of a
powerful bomb possessed by Meiring was the only bombing that preceded
one year before the DIA blast, as noted by journalist Carolyn Arguillas,
and that the May 16 explosion was preceeded by a series of bomb threats
that hit Davao City and other areas of Mindanao.
7.B. Meiring, quoted by media sources, himself intimated that because of the Balikatan Exercises to be held in the country, sporadic bombings were
to be expected and that a "big one" was also coming.
7.C. The quantity and powerful type of bombs that Meiring had in possession indicate that he was among the persons or groups that had in
possession of bombs of such intensity that can rip concrete buildings and cause massive destruction
According to Arguillas, the affidavits of Police Senior Inspector Sabino
Vengco and PO3 German Labandero, Explosives Ordnance Disposal team
leader and post-blast investigator, respectively, of the Special Anti Terrorist Unit (SATU) said the explosion originated inside one of the metal
boxes in Meiring's room.
Arguillas further said investigators recovered "used improvised electric blasting cap with burned leg wires, cut-off tiny pieces of leg wires
and bits of pieces of metallic fragments as cap shell." Arguillas cites
SPO3 Miguel Vicente, Jr. of the Southern Mindanao police's EOD team who
said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device which was
described as "powerful" and "high-tech." Vicente, according to Arguillas, was quoted in newspapers as saying ammonium nitrate, electronic apparatus, and other explosive materials which can cause heavy explosion and damage, were the contents of the device.
7.D. The identity of Meiring as a possible CIA or American federal
agent is bolstered by the circumstances of his high-handed escape from
Philippine territory, and the intervention of a vice-consul of the US Embassy in Manila, thus eroding credence to the claim that he is a
mere "treasure hunter" in the Philippines
7.E. The Commission notes the State's lack of resolve to extradite
and prosecute Michael Terrence Meiring in Philippine courts and has
buckled under pressure from the United States government when Federal agents whisked him off by plane despite the issuance of a warrant for his arrest.
8. The 33 total bombings in Mindanao that have occurred under
the Arroyo Administration comprise a pattern of unsolved and "unclaimed"
bombings thus pointing, at the very least, to an ineptness on the part of
the State to secure the lives and limbs of its citizens especially in Mindanao.
9. The state is culpable for massive violations of human rights in
Mindanao partially totaling 780 cases against 57683 individuals. This figure
does not include, however, the more than 400,000 Moro and Christians,
mostly women and children, who were victims of forced evacuation at the
height of the government's all-out offensive in Moro-dominated territories.
The figure also excludes human rights violation cases documented in Basilan and Sulu.
The Commission defers to a later date the presentation of a comprehensive documentation related to victims of human rights violations and international humanitarian laws in Mindanao.
10. The State's policy of all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has brought about an unprecedented forced evacuation of civilian communities. Government troops have violated the cultural rights
of Muslim communities with impunity especially that the attack on the Buliok Complex was done on the eve of Eidl Adha, a sacred Muslim holiday.
The Commission defers to a later date the presentation of documentation
related to the victims of forced evacuation as well documentation relating
to their present status and conditions.
11. Moro civilians have become victims of profiling, forced disappearances,
illegal searches, and arrests in the aftermath of the bombings. The State,
through its law enforcement agencies, went berserk after the March 4 and
April 2 Davao bombings in violating due process and resorting to illegal arrest and detention in order to produce suspects, most of whom are Moro
11.A. Illegal arrests
Moro civilians were arrested without warrants on various times after the
Davao bombings. These arrests have been punctuated with coercion and
Case in point is Tony Yatas, a resident of Purok 20, Sanggilangan,
Barangay Maa, Davao City, who claims in his sworn affidavit, that several
armed men surrounded their residence at 6 o'clock in the morning of March 5, 2003 and "invited" him for questioning related to the March 4 DIA
bombing. Yatas said that it was later when he learned that he, together with his wife, were brought to Camp Catitipan, of the Philippine National Police Region XI. Yatas said that, after signing the release papers in the afternoon, "they let us go and they left us a statement that if ever there will be another bombing incident here in Davao then they are going to get us again."
Kamar Lupon, also of Purok 20, Sanggilangan, Barangay Maa, Davao
City, claims in his affidavit that on March 5, the morning after the DIA
blast, several armed men whom he later identified to be policemen, who were mostly wearing plain clothes, "invited" him in relation to "last night's
bombing." Lupon said that, in the course of the interrogation, also in Camp
Catitipan, his interrogators were trying to intimidate him with leading
questions that imply, for example, his son's participation in an MILF training. Lupon said that before he was released, police told him that if another bomb would explode, they would get him again.
11.B. Illegal searches and raids
Illegal searches also marred the aftermath of the Davao bombings.
Foremost of these are illegal raids and searches in Muslim Village and Open
Space in Bangkal, Davao City last April 14, 2003. Armored personnel carriers (APC) transported more than 200 heavily armed soldiers in the said area. One of the residents said that a minimum of two soldiers barged into each house, ransacked their things and marked their main door or gate with "X", according to documentation of the incident by Karapatan.
The said case has victimized about 50 households with violations of domicile and destruction of properties. The concerned families, according to Karapatan, did not file complaints before the Commission on Human
Rights because they were afraid of more harassment.
The Task Force Davao was also engaged in the illegal raid of a Muslim
community in Madaum, Tagum, Davao del Norte, barely few weeks after
the Bangkal raid. About 100 families were affected. The TFD arrested a
Moro peasant-fisherman who claims that his house was "planted" with evidence by the elements of the said law enforcement unit. The poor man was tortured and forced to admit as one of the bombers.
11.C. Abductions and Forced Disappearances
A total of 9 Moro individuals were abducted by unidentified armed men
employing almost the same modus operandi in the abduction; 4 of these
individuals continue to be missing.
Various news sources have identified some of those abducted as: Datu
Sabdurah Ala of Ma-a Riverside, Davao City, on April 3, 2003; Ustadz
Alimudin Zulkifle, 28, of Sirawan, Toril, Davao City, on April 6, 2003;
Lajmar Jumdail, on April 10, 2003; Muslimen Maro, 38, a Maranao and a
resident of Mini-Forest, Boulevard, Davao City on April 15, 2003, and a
Zulkifle, is an Arabic teacher at the Inawayan Madrazah School in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. Ala is a Purok Leader and vice-president of the
Trisikad Drivers Association in Barangay Maa.
Maro is a Tabligh, a Muslim missionary, according to his uncle, prominent Muslim leader Ustadz Alim Adilao. Relatives said Maro was able to relay a text message to his friend, Ali Sultan, that he was "arrested" by unidentified men on April 15, 2003 and that he was being questioned over the Davao bombings.
11.D. Profiling and Racial Discrimination
Moro communities cowered in fear because of the strong-arm measures
including the employment of "Makapili" tactics, illegal searches through
raids, and the discriminatory and unconstitutional practice of "house markings" on suspected terrorist households, as demonstrated in the
Muslim Village raids of April 15, 2003. "Makapili" is a method employed
during the Japanese Occupation where a military informant's face is concealed with a bag or headgear. The same method was used by law enforcers in their effort to identify MILF members.
The State has resorted to a "fishing expedition" in Muslim communities
in the effort to produce suspects in accordance with the "Moro mould",
another indication of profiling and racial discrimination
The statements of civilian authorities like Mayor Duterte pinpointing to
Muslim communities as having to do with the Davao bombings and the call
of Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol for the revival of the Ilaga vigilante group against Moro populations is indicative of an undeclared state policy
of racial discrimination and profiling.
In an article published in Sunstar, April 22, 2003, Duterte was quoted
"'Wag na tayong magbolahan dito, ang mga suspects are all Muslims. Saan
naman ako maghahanap sa kanila? Dun sa seminaryo? Naturalmente doon
yun magtatago sa mga Muslim areas. That is why dun kami naga-raid sa mga Muslim areas (Let's not fool each other. The suspects are all Muslims so where do you expect me to look for their accomplices, inside seminaries? Of course I'll look for them in Muslim areas),' he said."
Based on the foregoing, the Commission submits the following initial
a. Quantification of indemnification for moral and physical damages for
victims and those unjustly charged and detained, and their families and
b. Immediate, speedy, transparent and thorough investigation by the
c. Investigation by international human rights bodies and the filing of
appropriate reports, charges, or complaints before international entities
including, but not limited to, the United Nations Human Rights
d. Filing of civil, criminal, and administrative charges against Major
Rene Paje and other junior or senior officers and civilians who appear
to have involvement or responsibility for the bombings and the unjust
arrests and detention of innocent individuals.
e. Filing of civil, criminal, and administrative charges against state
agencies and agents found to have committed human rights violations and
international humanitarian law before national, bilateral and multilateral