[Police examine the scene after an explosion ripped through an apartment in the upscale district of Taguig city, east of Manila, Philippines, Friday, May 31, 2013. A loud explosion ripped through an apartment in Manila on Friday night, and a radio report said at least three people were killed by falling debris that hit a passing delivery van. AP]

MANILA, JUNE 3, 2013 (INQUIRER) Philippine officials said Saturday they still do not know what caused a powerful explosion that ripped through an upscale apartment complex in the Philippine capital, killing three people in a van that was hit by debris.

Friday night’s blast blew out the walls of an apartment on the fifth floor, sending a slab of concrete flying onto the street below and smashing into a passing delivery van. It’s driver and two of his crew were crushed to death.

Five others, including an American and a 9-year-old, were injured, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said.

The Office of Civil Defense earlier reported that three others had been killed in the building but later said that was wrong. Maj. Reynaldo Balido, spokesman for the agency, said the only fatalities were those in the van, adding that local civil defense officers mistakenly reported the deaths in the building.

The explosion hit the Serendra building, a plush condominium complex surrounded by restaurants and shops frequented by Manila’s upper class and expatriate community in Taguig city in metropolitan Manila.

Roxas told reporters Saturday that three separate teams of bomb sniffing dogs from the police and the army, which combed the wrecked apartment and the debris, did not find any indication of explosives.

“We are not yet saying that this was not caused by a bomb, but this is factual — these three teams did not register any fumes or residue of ordinary bombs,” he said.

“Right now, we still do not know what caused the explosion,” he added. “We are not ruling out anything.”

Authorities were initially looking into a gas supply issue, and residents were kept out of other buildings as officials checked the supply maintenance.

Roxas urged the public to refrain from speculating if the blast was linked to recent travel advisories issued by the U.S., British, Canadian and Australian governments for the restive southern Philippines, where they cited a risk of kidnappings and terrorist activities.

Muslim militants have targeted the Philippine capital in the past, but most attacks have been confined to the southern region, where minority Muslims have fought for self-rule for decades.


Tenant in Serendra unit 501 now ‘person of interest’ By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 3, 2013 - 12:00am

Police investigators in haz-mat suits examine the parking area across the street from a Two Serendra unit in Bonifacio Global City where an explosion left three people dead. JONJON VICENCIO

MANILA, Philippines - The occupant of Two Serendra’s unit 501 who survived the powerful explosion last Friday is now a “person of interest” for police investigators keeping a tight watch on him at the St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Global City, Taguig.

“Investigators are getting the profile of Angelito San Juan, including his records from the Bureau of Immigration,” Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said yesterday.

He emphasized that San Juan, whom police want to question on events leading to the incident, is not a suspect for any crime.

“There is no legal move against him. We are just interested in his story,” Roxas said.

He said probers have yet to talk to San Juan who remains in the intensive care unit of the hospital.

Roxas said San Juan suffered third degree burns in various parts of his body.

Initial reports said that the victim was seen leaving his unit when the blast occurred.

San Juan was renting unit 501, owned by George Cayton.

Investigators have found a used fire extinguisher inside the unit.

“It has not been determined if Cayton and San Juan are relatives and what kind of agreement they have,” Roxas said.

The STAR tried to arrange a possible interview with relatives of San Juan but they declined.

A police source, however, said San Juan is based in the US and had no relatives visiting him as of yesterday.

“We cannot get any details on his profile because he is based in the US,” the source said.

BFP to lead probe

With the apparent absence of explosive residue, investigators from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) are likely to take the lead in the probe on the Two Serendra blast that killed three people and injured at least five others.

A source yesterday said the Philippine National Police (PNP) - Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) was set to turn over to the BFP probers all the pieces of evidence gathered from the explosion site.

“The BFP investigators will analyze the pieces of evidence recovered. But the PNP will still support the investigation,” the source said.

Hours after the explosion, probers who sifted through the debris and analyzed burn patterns from concrete slabs found no positive traces of bomb chemicals.

In a statement issued yesterday, Roxas said probers at Two Serendra have focused their efforts on the “blast site,” which remained sealed two days after the explosion.

Roxas also announced that the Department of Science and Technology has joined the probe to help determine what kind of chemical can propel a concrete slab from the fifth floor of the condo unit to a road several meters away.

“Police and fire authorities have thoroughly sifted through the debris scattered at the street portion and concluded the gathering of forensic evidence there,” Roxas said.

“We are using science and the knowledge of the different government agencies, including the Army’s explosives unit, to find out what happened and take steps to prevent this from happening again,” he added.

Roxas said probers have also started interviewing occupants of the third and fifth floors of Two Serendra.

– With Cecille Suerte Felipe

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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