A political representative of Basilan island in southern Philippines was blasted to death by a massive detonation of a makeshift explosive device at about 8 in the evening yesterday. Congressman Wahab Akbar was fatally injured in the incident that also took the lives of a chauffeur of another representative and the staff member of yet another solon.
The slain politician sustained severe cranial and tissue damage in the upper portion of his torso and died while being rushed to the hospital. The other victims were identified as Marcial Tando, said to be the driver of party-list Gabriela representative Luzviminda Ilagan and Maan Gali Bustalino, a staff member of Negros province solon Henry Teves. Nine other persons, including MPs Ilagan and Teves were maimed as well.
According to unnamed witnesses, the deadly ordnance, which was ostensibly remote-controlled through a mobile cellular phone was put in a motorcycle parked deliberately in the south wing entrance of the main congress building. In a radio interview, lawmaker Vicente Varf Belmonte, representing the political district of Iligan city and suburbs in Lanao province, noted that security within the premises had been wanting since many people can come and go in the area without so much as a glance from the guards.
In happier days, Rep. Belmonte said that he used to chat with the deceased Akbar where they discussed politics and the peace and order in Basilan island, which is a known lair of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf bandits-the scourged of the Filipino people. Severral months ago, Akbar’s minions, together with some Abu Sayyaf followers and Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels were accused by the Philippine military as responsible for the ambush of a hundred Marine soldiers in Ginanta village of Basilan. Not content with just killing the cornered soldiers, the attackers ghastly mutilated and decapitated the bodies of ten marines. This barbaric act shocked many Christian Filipinos and drew outrage from many sectors of Philippine society.
The current speaker of the house of representatives, Joe de Venecia condemmed the bomb attack as a "dastardly act of terrorism that will never be tolerated by the government." In a press conference hours after the incident, a furious de Venecia declared that "We are not cowed by this brutal violence done only by cowards. We are never intimidated by bombs and death. Even under threat of terrorism, this congress will continue to work for the greater of the Filipino people."
President Gloria Arroyo immediately ordered the NBI-National Bureau of Investigation, together with the National Police to expedite a comprehensive investigation of the matter in order to know who are responsible for the bombing and their motives.
Aside from terrorism or a military retaliation angle, authorities are not discounting politics as possible motive of the attack. As Rep. Belmonte pointed out, he recalled that Wahab Akbar sorrounded himself with armed bodyguards since winning the bitterly contested congressional seat of Basilan. Here in the medieval Philippines, "democratic elections" are just cruel joke and only a false facade of western democracy. Powerful warlords who have the guns, goons and enormous amount of cash are the real kings who call the shots and control the lives of majority of the Filipino masses in this feudalistic nation.
It was the first time in the history of the Philippines that the country’s lawmaking chamber came under violent attack. But given the bloody and unstable political situation in the country, it is no longer a surprise. In the maelstorm and chaos of the government, it seems that no one is safe from the specter of violent death. Only last, two high ranking officials of the often controversial Commission of Elections were gunned down in separate locations in the main island of Luzon. Earlier this month, at least a dozen innocent shoppers were blown into smithereens during a big explosion in Glorietta mall in the Manila metropolis.
So far, the Philippine authorities have not yet come up with credible solutions to this spate of bloody incidents. But one thing is sure, under the present uncertain circumstances, every harried Filipino know that he is living within an inch of the gunman’s bullet or for that matter, a bomb’s blasting cap.