Recognition Awards 2012 | Philippines: Palawan Bomb Attack 'Extortion and Politics' Seen with Arrest
This article was chosen as one of the best published so far in 2012 on Ground Report. The winners received a prize of $60, which comes from an anonymous donor.
Palawan bombings: Extortion and Politics seen as behind Palawan Blasts - confirmed with Arrest
by Mike Cohen
Puerto Princesa City: Police on Palawan island have ruled out terrorism in a pair of holy week 'scare bombing' attacks. The weapons used be designed not to cause widespread injury but spread panic according to the Philippine local governments and interiror secretary Jesse Robredo.
Police say they traced a phone number allegedly that sent threatening text (SMS) messages from a local government part time employee to local bus companies and transport firms. This has lead to the arrest of young woman who has ties to a former members of a separatist group that has made peace with government. Meanwhile local police according to Senior Superintendent Reynaldo Jagmis also say that the suspect was at one time was a former government employee who worked part time for political figures linked to a high profile crime.
The cell phone number and other contact information in the suspect phone - is alleged to have made several calls as well to a local 'political figure' a former local government official.
The suspect is in Police custody had been at a meeting with community leader from Palawan when police found the cell phone number was the same one that was sending 'extoriton threats' versus a local bus company.
Police probe link to Gerry Ortega murder case:
Police are also attempting to determine if Political issues such as the murder case versus a former governor and current mayor who are at large and accused in the murder of Journalist-Activist Dr. Gerry Ortega in 2011. Ortega had exposed illegal mining permits issued to small scale companies which were abused and corruption issues prior to his murder.
Ortega, had just launched a major campaign to end mining on Palawan island with the backing of the Philippines largest television network ABS-CBN when he was murdered by a hired hit squad. The campaign has been a huge success raising million of signatures versus mining in Palawan.
Ortega's expose was later proven accurate by the Philippine anti-graft ombudsman and a commission of audit report. The exposes by Ortega led to investigations and was the basis of several graft cases versus former Provincial government officials.
Extortion also seen in SMS related arrest.
Police, further say that the phone number in possession of the suspect had sent text messages threatening bombings or attacks if they refused to pay 'protection fee's' - to a local bus company.
Extortion is often done by groups claiming to have ties with rebels but in reality are often criminals who assume the identity of rebel groups. It is while realitvely rare on Palawan which since 1993 has been declared a zone of peace by insurgents and government in a agreement forged with then former President Fidel Ramos and members of the seperatist movements and leftist insurgents. Palawan is supposed to be a so-called "non conflict zone" and had remained so for a number of years until members of Abu Sayyaf group carried out a attack on a popular tourist resort area.
The suspect now being held by police along with another person who ironically was wounded in blast in Puerto Princesa. "We are not accusing anyone who was at the blast site with anything but we are trying to eliminate all possible leads" local officials stressed.
CCTV Video of blast area being studied
Puerto Princesa City has an extensive CCTV network and its camera's near a public market are being closely studied according to Police. The bomb which went off in near the city's marketplace which is covered by several CCTV camera's was captured by the video system.
Philippine Local Government and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo says that police and City officials confirmed that that there is CCTV camera footage of the explosion in near Bus Station and Public Market and around a dozen witnesses have come forward.
Police also are questioning a elderly woman who owned the sack of rice where the improvised explosive device was placed. it is unclear if she was involved or the bomb was placed in the sack while it was on a bus she had been riding on prior to it being loaded onto a tricycle she was ridding on when the bomb exploded.
National Government Stresses: Local politics and criminal extortion not terrorism behind blast
The spokeswoman of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, Abegail Vaite. speaking on government radio on Easter Sunday stressed that the initial investigation points to political feuds and extortion rather than threat groups normally associated with bombings in the Philippines.
"Government will continue to do all it can to protect our people as well as our visitors." Vaite told DZRB Radyo ng Bayan (National Radio station) on Easter Sunday. "We are getting more and more information pointing to some political figures and a extortion racket versus bus and van companies" she did not elaborate further.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.