NAIA 3 foiled bomb try: Comic relief or diversionary tactic?

By Ellen T. Tordesillas

Posted at Sep 02 2014 09:37 PM | Updated as of Sep 05 2014 06:24 AM

So far, these are the facts about Monday’s incident at the NAIA3:

At around 1:45 a.m. last Monday, operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested three men assembling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside a parked white Toyota sport utility vehicle at the parking lot of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

The three were later identified as Grandeur Pepito Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon.

News reports based on the NBI’s report said the operatives found with the suspects plastic bottles of gasoline with firecrackers. The NBI also said seized firearms from three including one .38 caliber revolver.

They also found anti-China leaflets and other materials in the vehicle.

The NBI said the suspects have been under surveillance since month ago.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said they have started investigation on the incident and the suspect as they have received information that the group planned to target the Chinese Embassy and establishments owned by Chinese businessmen.

She said she wants to dig deeper:"Do they have other agenda? Is it just about the dispute with China, going against so-called oligarchs and taipans, or is there a bigger agenda or any other agenda that would probably result to destabilization?"

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Pio Catapang is hardly worried. It’s not a terrorist plot, he said, adding that the suspects just “wanted attention.”

"I don't think it was a terror attack, because you know, they were just firecrackers. I heard it was pla-pla. We were told that there were gasoline containers, but not that big," he said.

Catapang said the group is associated with Ely Pamatong’s groups - USAFFE , a take-off after a World War 2 United States Army Forces in the Far East and Discovery Crusade of the Philippines.

Pamatong is identified with nuisance acts like laying down metal spikes on the road to get the attention of officials on causes that he espouses. He wants the Philippines to become the 51st state of the United States of America. He is rabidly anti-China.

He was declared a nuisance candidate when he tried to run for president.

One of the suspects, Grandeur Guerrero, who claims to be head of security of an RTW factory in Baliwag, Bulacan shares Pamatong’s anti-China sentiments. In a protest rally in front of the Chinese Embassy last June 12, he was wearing a Discovery Crusade of the Philippines T-shirt.

One of his Facebook posts criticized what to him is the government’s soft attitude towards China: “Bakit ang gobyernong China, assertive? Bakit ang pamahalaan natin, hindi? Samantalang pag-aari talaga natin ang mga inaagaw sa atin. Mamamayang Pilipino, magkaisa na tayo at simulang kumilos! (Why is the Chinese government assertive? Why is our government not [assertive]? When it’s really our territory that they grabbed. Filipino people, let’s unite and take action!)”

He called for a boycott of China-made motorbikes: “Boycott China! Support our protest action against China's invasion and illegal occupation of the Spratly's and Scarborough. Please share and spread the advocacy."

He listed the brand names of motorcycles with a call: “Don’t buy these China-made motorbikes as our protest.”

Catapang dismissed the group as “a comic relief.”

Apparently, the President does not share his top military official’s non-chalance.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma said, "The President has instructed the DOJ and the NBI to conduct a deeper probe on the incident. Right now, we want to assure the public that there is no major security threat because the attempt was already foiled. There will be a thorough study on the possible implications of the incident."

Will a “thorough investigation” make sense of some details on the incident that don’t seem to fit? Like gasoline and firecrackers in plastic bottles? Plastic? This is the first time we heard of bombs in plastic bottles.

Security expert Ace Esmeralda, head of Ace and Associates Risk Management, also raised questions in his blog such as: Why NBI?; Why only NBI?; Why was there no coordination with the airport and Aviation security stakeholders?; Was the absence of coordination a manifestation of mistrust with those in charge of airport security? Does the NBI consider airport security inadequate? What are the motives of the suspects?”

In trying to make sense of the NAIA 3 alleged foiled bomb try, many can’t help but think if it was an attempt to divert the attention from the issues hounding the government like the daily agony of MRT commuters, the grinding traffic in Metro Manila, rising prices of everything; the DAP, the PDAF.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.