CAGAYAN DE ORO BOMB BLAST NOT LINKED TO MORO PEACE AGREEMENT

[PHOTO -LOOKING like a war zone, the site of a bomb explosion in Cagayan de Oro ]

CAGAYAN DE ORO, OCTOBER 15, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Jigger Jerusalem – Peace advocates appealed to the people for sobriety in the wake of the recent bombings in some parts of Mindanao and the signing today of the framework agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Please do not connect the dots that are not there,” said Pendatun Desimban, a leader of peace activists from Mindanao who arrived in Manila yesterday as part of a caravan to witness the signing of the peace pact in Malacañang Palace.

Disimban said there was no reason for anyone to set off bombs just to derail the peace agreement.

He said the MILF even has a high acceptance level among the Moro people for the group to sign, on their behalf, the framework peace agreement with the government.

“Ito ang gusto nila (MILF). That’s why they agreed to sign it because they want peace in Mindanao,” Disimban said.

Even those who had opposed the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain on Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (MOADD-BJE) before are now supporting the new framework peace agreement, Disimban said.

“We are calling on the media to be sensitive (in their reportage),” Disimban told reporters when the peace caravan made a brief stop here over the weekend.

Meanwhile, local political leaders here are backing the peace accord.

The Misamis Oriental provincial board chaired by Vice Gov. Norris Babiera passed a resolution expressing its full support to the peace agreement.

Cagayan de Oro 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and his brother Rep. Maximo Jr. of Abamin party-list believe the signing could lead to prosperity and lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We fully support the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement which will put an end to fighting in Mindanao and ultimately attain that elusive peace in Mindanao for centuries now. This will spur full economic development in the entire island and liberate Muslims, lumads and Christians from poverty,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez, who will attend the signing, said it would be “an emotional experience for the Mindanaons. We laud President Aquino, a true brother of Mindanao and the leader of the entire Republic.”

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome said the police have not monitored any specific threat in connection with the historic signing of the formal agreement between the government and the MILF.

Bartolome ordered all police units to be on alert, as local and foreign visitors will attend the signing ceremonies at Malacañang.

PNP spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said police presence would be seen and felt in Metro Manila in time for the signing of the agreement.

He refused to disclose the number of policemen to be deployed for the event.

Cerbo said police deployment was in anticipation of the possibility that some group might use today’s event to further their interest and agenda, prompting the police force to intensify the security setup.

Starting Saturday, Cerbo said visitors including Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC, formerly Organization of Islamic Conference) secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu will be arriving in the country to witness the signing of the framework agreement.

Cerbo said police forces in Luzon and the Visayas were placed on heightened alert while other police units in Mindanao remained on full alert.

Bartolome said the PNP expressed full support to the framework agreement with the MILF.

“It’s worth giving it a serious attention. We’ve always been looking for genuine peace in Mindanao and this is one good opportunity to discuss things out and be able to forge an agreement for a lasting peace,” Bartolome said. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe

Tight security, probe ordered after blasts By Jigger Jerusalem (The Philippine Star) Updated October 13, 2012 12:00 AM


[PHOTO CIURTESY OF INTERAKSYON ONLINE: Police tape seals off the spot where two civilians were killed and two police officers wounded when an improvised explosive device went off outside the Maxandrea Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City. (photo by Cong Corrales, InterAksyon.com)]

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Malacañang has assured residents here that the government is acting on the Thursday morning bombing that left two people dead and two police officers wounded, the city’s second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said.

“President Aquino just called me to assure us that he is on top of the situation, and that there will (be) a full investigation and security measures will be instituted to prevent similar occurrence,” Rodriguez said yesterday.

Rodriguez said Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome also gave assurance of a “speedy and full” investigation into the incident.

The President promised to help the victims and the families of those who were killed, Rodriguez added.

Aquino has ordered the PNP to tighten security in Mindanao in the wake of Thursday’s Cagayan de Oro City bombing.

Authorities are linking the bombing to an unnamed group opposed to the government’s peace efforts in Mindanao.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang would wait for the PNP to complete its investigation into the bombing incidents in Mindanao before making a statement.

“At this point, while the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature for us to (comment),” Valte said.

Rodriguez added regional, provincial and city police authorities immediately met to “identify the three suspects who planted the bombs, ensure security for our people and discuss their logistical requirements.”

He added that there were suggestions for the procurement of more radio equipment, bomb sniffing dogs and motorcycles for policemen.

“We gave financial assistance to the families of Rudy Jote and Toto Indang, who died due to the bomb blast,” Rodriguez reported.

Regional police director Northern Mindanao Regional Police director Chief Superintendent Gil Hitosis awarded “Wounded in Action” medals to Police Officers 1 Rogelio Canilanza and Dexter Dao, who were confined at the Polymedic Hospital.

The two policemen were about to inspect the package containing the bomb when it exploded.

Hitosis said they are checking the possible link of the explosion in Zamboanga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as the Philippine government is about to forge a deal with a group while the other group feels left out.

Hitosis clarified that as of now, authorities have no strong evidence linking the explosion to the peace deal.

Southern Mindanao has been placed under full alert status following the series of bombing incidents in Zamboanga City and Cagayan de Oro City. S

Southern Mindanao regional police director Chief Superintendent Jaime Morente said all police and Special Action Force units in the region have been placed on full alert.

The city of Butuan in Northern Mindanao was also placed under full alert following the bombings.

Even as security has been tightened in Mindanao, some 50 unidentified gunmen scared away villagers in Montawal town in Maguindanao late Thursday by indiscriminately firing high-powered firearms.

Lt. Col. Benjie Hao, commanding officer of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said they are now helping the police determine the identities of the gunmen and the real motive for the shooting frenzy.

No one was killed in the incident, but the loud repeated bursts of automatic gunfire forced villagers to abandon their homes and seek refuge in other barangays, he said.

“We’re not even sure if it was politically motivated, or a show of force,” Hao said.

Montawal is a politically troubled town, where several barangay chairmen are at odds with certain local incumbent officials.

The Maguindanao provincial police office has ordered an extensive probe on the incident.

Hao said they have also asked the government’s ceasefire committee, which deals with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to help identify the gunmen.

Montawal is a known gateway to the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh, a bastion of the MILF.

Hao said local officials are convinced that MILF forces were not involved in the harassment, aware that rebel commanders in the area have good relations with the municipal ceasefire monitors and have religiously been adhering to the ceasefire accord. – Jess Diaz, Aurea Calica, John Unson, Ben Serrano, Edith Regalado, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Blasts rock Mindanao; link to Moro deal eyed By Roel Pareño (The Philippine Star) Updated October 12, 2012 12:00 AM

[PHOTO -Members of a police bomb squad prepare to detonate a bag suspected of containing explosives in downtown Cagayan de Oro City. The bag was found near the Maxandrea Hotel (inset), where another bomb killed a hotel employee and a jeepney conductor and wounded two responding policemen. GERRY GORIT]

ZAMBOANGA CITY , Philippines – Two people were killed while two policemen and a civilian were wounded in separate bombing attacks in Cagayan de Oro City and Zamboanga Sibugay on Wednesday and early yesterday.

An improvised explosive device (IED) went off near the entrance of Maxandrea Hotel in downtown Cagayan de Oro City around 2 a.m. yesterday, leaving two people dead.

Authorities identified the fatalities as hotel staff Rudy Jote, and a jeepney conductor identified only as “Toto.”

Police Officers 1 Rogelio Galilando and Dexter Gaño, who were preparing to inspect the package containing the bomb at the scene, were injured in the blast as they were just a few meters away when it exploded.

The two policemen were trying to prevent bystanders from getting near the IED shortly before the explosion.

Seven hours earlier, another explosive device went off in a garment shop in Imelda town of Zamboanga Sibugay, injuring 14-year-old Alraffy Barabadan.

Hours after the explosion at the hotel in Cagayan de Oro, police retrieved another IED, this time placed under a vehicle parked in a street adjacent to the hotel.

Investigators led by SPO2 Dennis Allan Poe Labitad said their initial findings revealed the IEDs were cellphone-activated.

Before the explosion, a hotel front desk receptionist reported to the police a suspicious looking package left by three unidentified men in front of the hotel.

Police said they caught the image of the three men who left the package through the hotel’s CCTV. The suspects reportedly left a plastic bag in front of the Oro Bicycle Store located at the ground floor of the hotel.

A security guard then asked for help from the local police as curious onlookers were already starting to gather around the area.

The bomb exploded just as the responding policemen arrived.

Although authorities knew that the IEDs were cellphone activated, they are still clueless on the motive behind the attack.

“Motive of the incident is still unknown,” said Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesman Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang.

The police and military were trying to determine possible motives of the separate attacks even as security was intensified in the region to thwart similar bombings.

Backlash?

Police authorities in both areas would not comment if the explosions were a backlash on the peace agreement to be signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with reports emerging that there were disgruntled rebel factions.

“We are checking the possible link of the explosions in Zamboanga and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as we all know the Philippine government has an ongoing peace deal with a group while the other group feels disgruntled. But let me clarify that as of now we have no strong evidence linking the explosion to the peace deal,” said Northern Mindanao Regional Police director Superintendent Gil Hitosis.

Although police investigators have yet to gather evidence to link the blast to the peace deal, Hitosis said such possibility could not be ruled out, particularly with intelligence information that a group was disgruntled with the ongoing peace negotiation.

Hitosis said the police received reports that renegade MILF commander Ameril Umbra Kato and his group are planning to harass three to four towns in Lanao de Norte by conducting bombing activities in Iligan City.

“We are checking if the recent bombing was a translation of their threats,” he said.

Hitosis said he gave instructions to the police units in the field to be more alert.

“First I hoisted full alert status, second I ordered the conduct of checkpoints to prevent proliferation of firearms and IEDs and allied bombs, third is we are conducting follow up operation against certain personalities, fourth is increased police visibility and fifth, I ordered my men to scour Cagayan de Oro for any more bombs,” he said.

The military, on the other hand, said they are helping the police in their investigation into the incident.

“We don’t have any lead yet. Our police counterparts are handling the investigation,” said Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman for the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City.

Aside from deploying bomb sniffing dogs within the vicinity of the Maxandrea hotel, Osias said the military also deployed its ordnance and explosive experts to assist the police in the post-blast investigation.

The explosions occurred amid a warning from Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari that the forging of the framework agreement between the government and the MILF would spark unrest in Mindanao.

The framework agreement of the peace pact forged in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is set to be formally signed on Oct. 15 in Malacañang with no less than MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in attendance.

Misuari, who was the MNLF chairman when the group signed a final peace agreement with the government in 1996, branded the agreement with the MILF as a mistake.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez condemned the bombing incident.

“We condemn this dastardly act. We have a peaceful city. As far as I can remember, this was the first time it happened,” he said.

Rodriguez said he has reported the incident to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. who promised to talk to officials of the Philippine National Police so that the investigation into the bombing could be expedited.

“We urge the authorities to leave no stone unturned in their inquiry and to finish it soonest and inform the public of its results. We hope this incident does not affect tourism in Cagayan de Oro and other parts of Northern Mindanao,” he said.

Rodriguez asked city residents and the police to be vigilant “against those who would like to disturb the peace of our city.” – Edith Regalado, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude, Jigger Jerusalem, Jess Diaz


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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