By TYRONE A. VELEZ
Davao City—Authorities are eyeing groups who are targeting American establishments as could be behind the explosions that hit two cinema houses in two shopping malls here late Monday night.
Around 9 pm last night an explosion rocked SM Ecoland Cinema 1, and in less than an hour another explosion occurred at Gaisano Mall Cinema 5 along JP Laurel Avenue.
The Moro National Liberation Front, currently locked in armed conflict in Zamboanga City, has denied it is behind the Davao blasts.
Intelligence gathered for the past few days revealed a certain group targeting American establishments, said City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who flew in immediately from his trip in South Korea over the weekend and held a press conference following a command conference appraising the security situation Tuesday morning.
Davao City Police Chief Superintendent Ronaldo dela Rosa confirmed this and added that he had briefed SM Ecoland’s security team few days ago to tighten their watch because of information from intelligence of “terror” threats, but said this one “got away.”
“Mainit sila sa American brand (They hate American brand),” dela Rosa said.
A source from one of the establishments in the affected mall confirmed that the American embassy issued an advisory last week for US establishments in Southern Mindanao to take precautions following the reported threats.
The mayor said that while no serious casualties were reported, local government and state security are not “minimizing the effect” and will take the “threats seriously.”
Duterte would not confirm whether the bombs are related to the state visit of US President Barack Obama to the Philippines this October 12.
But he said the intelligence and state security have been briefed of this situation even before the Kadayawan festival.
National state security officials went around cities in Mindanao last August to brief local officials on security following bombings that struck three cities killing eight people.
Duterte said the cinema bombings were “a statement, whether it is political or it’s a statement of hatred, we are taking steps to meet this challenge. This is connected to a political aspiration or the rebellion.”
But he said he will not go into “a blame game” and would wait for the results from police investigation.
The mayor said he talked over the phone with MNLF chair Nur Misuari who told him that the MNLF is not behind the explosions.
Police responded to secure the movie houses and probe blast sites. De la Rosa later told reporters that both explosions happened in the front rows of the movie houses and there were only a handful of people inside at that time.
SM Cinema 1 was showing the Hollywood sci-fi movie Elysium while Gaisano Cinema 5 was viewing the US-action movie Intersection.
Five people from Gaisano Cinema were brought to the hospital for complaints of the impact of the loud explosion.
Dela Rosa said the bomb masterminds only meant to scare people and not to seriously harm them as the police did not find any shrapnel at the blast sites.
“Pampahadlok lang ang ilang gihimo (It was meant to threaten the people),” dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said authorities saw a cellular phone keypad on the floor near the blast site in Gaisano Cinema 5.
He said they would determine in a command conference whether to raise the full alert status following the incident.
Invest in security
Duterte said after the cinema bombings, he wanted movie theatres in shopping malls to “invest” in improved security gadgets and measures.
“All moviehouses will be responsible for the security of the moviegoers. We can give security outside, but we can’t do it all. They have to search, there are plenty of security agencies,” said the mayor.
“With their investments, they are supposed to install high definition surveillance camera,” he added.
He warned that if another incident like this would happen, he would close down the moviehouse and revoke its permit.
As of this writing, SM and Gaisano malls are still drafting their statements regarding the incident.
In a visit to SM Ecoland Cinema this morning, Davao Today found the Cinema 1 closed and its feature movie transferred to Cinema 2.
A few moviegoers came, mostly senior citizens availing of the free viewing day on Tuesday.
One of them said he just learned SM was attacked, but he is unfazed.
“Why worry, when you die, it’s your time,” he said. (Tyrone A. Velez/ davaotoday.com)Davao City moviehouse bombing, Gaisano Mall, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, mayor rody duterte, SM Davao