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REVISITING THE RIZAL DAY BOMBINGS

December 28, 2009

Herman Tiu Laurel has an interesting article about that one tragic day in December 30, 2000:

There’s a new year that beckons a few days from today, but is it going to be a new day for this nation? The truth is, our country hasn’t changed in nine years since that fateful Rizal Day in year 2000, when five closely coordinated bombs went off and killed 22 men, women and children in a crime that surpasses the gruesomeness of the Maguindanao Massacre in premeditation and conspiratorial intent.

While in Maguindanao, a political family and its apparently crazed scion were implicated, in the so-called F-I-D-E-L bombings, an alleged wide conspiracy includes not only the bomb planters but a network of covert local and international operatives of the hidden global powers.

Images of six-year-old Crizele Acusin, who was carried off the LRT Blumentritt station, whose face was blown away completely, symbolized the horror of the nation that day.

Crizele should now have been well into her teens and probably a year away from her high school graduation. Who would have thought that anyone had the cruelty to do such a deed amid the Filipino nation’s season of merriment?

I was at a late lunch of a group of journalists at the Spring Deer Restaurant on Timog Avenue at that time. It was an event so long ago that two of those with us are no longer around: Former Chronicle editor and later Arroyo Press Undersecretary Noel Cabrera and columnist Julius Fortuna. Nevertheless, others can still testify to my account that one member of the group, a non-journalist and anti-Erap activist of Yellow crowd, was hyperactive, and suddenly sprang up from our table and walked to a far corner to answer his beeping cellphone.

The call was from a well known conspirator with Copa, the anti-Erap Council of Philippine Affairs, who reported that a series of bombs had gone off all over Metro Manila. While among most of the journalists, there was a somber mood that greeted the news, the anti-Erap elements seemed excited and gleeful. It was as if a signal for the final push against Erap in a campaign of destabilization that had stretched for over a year, with the impeachment proceedings torpedoed by Congress already floundering in the halls of the Senate, had suddenly been realized.

A week after the bombings, Cory Aquino came out in all the mainstream newspapers, blaming the blasts on the Estrada government. Lauro Vizconde of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption even presented a female witness tagging “military elements.” Meanwhile, the National Democratic Front also blamed Erap, as did the MILF.

Fidel Ramos was quick to deny involvement in the bombings — a fact I obtained from my three hours of micro film research at the UP Library. The bombs went off at Plaza Ferguson; the International Airport at NAIA; near Dusit Hotel; inside a bus named Edsan; and at the LRT train cab at the Blumentritt stop. That’s how they were also tagged the F-I-D-E-L bombings. Moreover, FVR’s premature denial of any involvement in those incidents reminded me of his earlier premature public alarm over Dacer’s disappearance.

But surprise, surprise: The PNP’s investigations led instead to the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF. Eventually, three suspects who later confessed to acquiring and transporting the bombs turned out to be MILF-linked Indonesians and alleged jihadists Al Ghozi, Hambali, Bafana, and alleged Muslim rebels Yunos, Zainal Paks, Salman Moro, Mahamad Amir, Ustad Said, Abdul Fatak Paure and Mamasao Naga.

Last January 2009, in the usual slow-grinding fashion of the Philippine justice system, these “bombers” were convicted but without chief planner Al Ghozi, who got arrested and detained in 2002, “escaped under mysterious circumstances,” and killed allegedly in an encounter with pursuing police forces. But then, there is a video of the escape where Al Ghozi is led out of his Camp Crame detention with escorts and with helicopters flying overhead.

General Ebdane was then PNP chief and Sen. Miriam Santiago demanded his resignation while Sen. Nene Pimentel in 2003 suggested that Al Ghozi and his escapee companion Edris were killed to silence them. What is not being pursued is the report that PNP bomb-sniffing dogs were pulled out of the LRT just days prior to the bombings, which is something that only the PNP top brass could have ordered.

When one tries to put together stories of the F-I-D-E-L bombings of nine years, other questions cannot help but be raised: Why were the anti-Erap forces seemingly anticipating some big thing during that period? Why were there not only fingerprints of the MILF, but also the AFP and PNP’s all over the operations of Al Ghozi and company, while FVR’s goodwill over these groups run the gamut of favors, including the Narciso Ramos Highway, which became the MILF’s turf? And why were juicy promotions given to major Edsa II police players, such as Ebdane and Mendoza, when all of them allegedly figured prominently in the mysteries that attended that day’s sinister conspiracy?

In the final analysis, the question that matters is “Cui bono?” or “Who benefits?” It is clear that all the Edsa II players benefited and to this day do not want the real questions answered. No wonder mainstream media are also silent about this.

While there has been a conviction of the accused nine years after those bombings, Raisak, a wife of one of the convicted bombers said after the court-sentencing: “That is how the government treats Muslims.” One Muslim NGO leader, who refuses to be named, said in so many words that they are fall guys being sent to face capital punishment.

Will we ever get to the truth while an Edsa II government remains in power?

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