AFP exec sees gov't hand in Mindanao bombings
By Sherwin C. Olaes
A ranking military official yesterday hinted that the resurgence of bombings in Mindanao could be the handiwork of the Arroyo administration meant to justify the continued presence and dominance of American troops in the war-conflict region and ease the worsening political tension in Metro Manila.
"It's not the kind of terror acts that's usually being done by the Abu Sayyaf (Muslim group). A typical guerrilla would not threaten nor destroy a town he protects. Also, it is illogical for them to hurt civilians of their own kind, it further shows that Jolo is one of their protective areas — a source of food, logistics and recreation," the source who requested anonymity, during an interview, said.
According to him, the United States has a long standing plan in Mindanao for it to take advantage of.
The military source cited the construction and the current operation of the General Santos International Airport which was put up by the US to allow and board military aircraft that can transport war machines, such as tanks and troops, and arsenal instantly should necessary actions in Mindanao arise.
"The airport was designed perfectly by the US government to monitor the Indian Ocean via Malacca Strait and China Sea...a grand preparation by the US against China...it is highly possible that this government is in collusion with another party of interest. Terrorism is an exportable commodity," he said.
It is also not far-fetched, the source added, that the Arroyo administration could be behind the bombings, claiming the same charges raised by the Magdalo group at the height of the short-lived mutiny at Oakwood Hotel in Makati City in July 2003, accusing the government of masterminding the bombings in Davao City and Cotabato City.
Meanwhile, another bomb exploded Wednesday in Digos City, Davao del Sur, injuring 17 persons.
Police reports said the bomb blasted a passenger Weana bus at a terminal in Digos City in southern Mindanao around 11:30 a.m. while the bus was unloading passengers.
Senior Insp. Benito Ricafuerte, Davao del Sur police intelligence chief, said the bomb used was highly explosive as the bus was thrown at least 10 meters away from its parking space within the terminal.
Authorities are still investigating the motive and group behind the blast.
On Monday, a powerful bomb tore through a cooperative in Jolo, Sulu, also in Mindanao, killing nine persons and injuring 17 others.
A ranking official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for his part, also yesterday condemned reports that the real target of the terror attacks was the Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo.
Newly appointed Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, vice president of the CBCP, said the act of bombing a church or a place of worship is "condemnable" because it shows no respect but violates as well the sanctity of one's religious beliefs.
"In our Bishops-Ulama dialogues we have always stressed that true Christians and Muslims respect each other's houses of worship," he added.
Ledesma stressed that "we all believe in the same one God" therefore, churches or houses of worship should not be attacked nor be the target of any violent attacks if they want to call government's attention and make impression.
Also, a Zamboanga-based top US military official has deplored the perpetrators of last Monday's bombing in downtown Jolo.
"We deplore the targeting and killing of innocent civilians," Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) chief Col. James Linder, in a statement, yesterday said.
The Philippine military has tagged the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf's demolition team behind the bombing.
Among those who immediately responded and helped bring the victims to the hospitals were American soldiers who are still in Jolo, Sulu.
Linder said the US forces, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, are in Jolo to advise and assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in cooperation with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines in its fight against terrorism.
"We at the JSOTF-P stand side-by-side with the people of the Philippines in the battle against lawlessness and terrorism in this region," he added.
The US government has included the Abu Sayyaf Group in its list of foreign terrorist organization.
Young Enlisted Soldiers Active and Retired Military Police for Solidarity (YesArms) spokesman retired Cmdr. Ismael Aparri, for his part, also yesterday asked the military to handle the terror events with principle and wisdom.
"The nation must be ready to accept the accountability and blame for the terrible condition the country is in. They must rethink national policies and consider that the Philippines may have been and still being used as a laboratory for anti-terrorism experimentation," he noted.
Aparri warned President Arroyo to conduct a fair and transparent investigation into the bombings in Mindanao as this could be again used as a ground by the idealist forces in the police and military to remove her from power.
"Up to how long can she (Mrs. Arroyo) keep her attack dogs in the military and the police reined in? How long will she last in power when the restiveness in the police and in the military is heating up due to her wrong policies?" he asked.
Aparri stressed it is high time for Mrs. Arroyo to step down to solve the restiveness in the military and the police.
"Her continued stay in power despite a dubious mandate has brought the AFP and the police institution in a state of fragmentation," he added.
Gina Peralta-Elorde, Marie A. Surbano, PNA and AFP