Repeating the cycle, peace advocates say on Mindanao bombings

Aug. 08, 2013

By Davao Today 

DAVAO CITY– Three bombings in major cities in Mindanao the past two weeks have baffled police and local officials as to who could be behind the incident and what could be the motive. But peace advocates say its 2003 all over again.

On July 26 a bomb exploded in Cagayan de Oro’s Limketkai Center killing eight people. Another explosion last Monday ripped through a busy intersection in Cotabato City killing eight people and burning some establishments and vehicles. A bomb went off in a street in Midsayap, North Cotabato early Wednesday dawn, but no casualties were reported.

Authorities still have to pinpoint the masterminds amidst a flurry of speculation and a restive public.  Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said these bombings were interconnected but did not elaborate except to call these as “acts of terrorism.”

Peace advocates, though are wary of the pronouncements as they have heard the same lines before.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felix Calang from Initiatives for Peace (InPeace) in Mindanao, said the bomb attacks is like 2003 all over again.  That year saw around 30 mystery bombings in major cities and towns in Mindanao that killed 95 people and injured 490. In the list of blown up establishments was a portion of the old Davao International Airport and the Sasa Wharf.

Calang was IFI’s bishop in its Davao diocese when the city’s airport and wharf was attacked by the bombings. Now he heads the diocese in Cagayan de Oro.

He said that authorities seem to have not learned from those lessons, citing how police immediately cleaned up the blast site in Limketkai Center that wiped away forensic evidence.

“We note the similarity between the hasty clean up of the Davao Airport in 2003 to the CDO bombings,” Calang said, recalling that in 2003, Australian forensic investigators were disappointed to find that the airport blast site was immediately washed clean by Davao firefighters before investigators could scour the place for bomb fragments.

Calang was also wary of “the flip flopping of government pronouncements on the details of the bombing such as types of explosives used or the possible culprits.”

Fr. Eliseo ‘Jun’ Mercado of the Oblates Missionaries Immaculate, has supported calls for peace in the Muslim area of Cotabato. He said in his Facebook page:

“Government once again tells the people that they would pursue the perpetrators… yet from as far back as I can remember and that is 1965, NO ONE is made responsible for any killing in the place. People learn to live in their insecurities… knowing fully well that all government can do is for the sound bytes,” he remarked on Tuesday.

In the Cagayan de Oro probe, interior secretary Mar Roxas said no shrapnel was found in the site but police investigators presented bomb fragments to media.

Speculations came out that the CdO attack targeted a provincial board member who was at the Limketkai Center after attending a national convention of doctors.  Politics was also considered in the Cotabato attack as claimed by Cotabato Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. who said his sister, the city’s administrator was travelling in the street where the bomb exploded.

Calang said incidents such as these are “indicating that investigations have not been thorough and scientific.”

Calang’s group InPeace released a statement saying that “mystery bombings have gone unsolved through the years and the state’s inability to pinpoint culprits and bring them to justice has contributed to the state of impunity against human rights in the country.

InPeace pointed out is wary that the bombings and calls for security is similar to the post 9-11 situation when during US President George W. Bush’s state visit, he pitched military aid to counter the rise of Jemaah Islamiya in the Philippines and in Asia.

InPeace led a Mindanao Truth Commission in 2003 that revealed testimonies from junior military officers pinpointing to state-sponsored bombing. The testimonies showed that some of the bombings were planned by high-level state security officers and by the United States intelligence–as in the case of the accidental hotel bombing involving US agent Terrence Meiring in Davao City.

Amidst many speculations, peace advocates urged the Aquino government to conduct a thorough and objective probe without resorting to discrimination against the Moro people.

The Al Qalam Institute of Ateneo de Davao urged “authorities to respect human rights and not do any form of “witch hunting” and observe the true essence of due process to all Muslim civilians. This act of terrorism must not justify any form of discrimination towards any Muslim Filipinos in our country.”

The institute further challenged national leaders to address the root causes of conflict and discrimination in Mindanao through inter-religious and intercultural dialogue between the Muslims and Christians.”

InPeace challenged the Aquino government “to conduct a thorough and scientific investigation into these bombings, leaving no stone unturned such that the possible culpability of state security agents is likewise looked into” and called on Congress to “swiftly exercise oversight over national defense and police programs and the state’s measures to prevent further bombings and pinpoint accountability to previous ones.” (

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