Bombing state-sponsored–perception

Nation
Written by Butch Fernandez and Manuel Cayon / Reporters
Tuesday, 07 July 2009 20:49

SENATORS on Tuesday condemned the rash of bombings in different parts
of the country, even as Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile took note
of growing public perception that these incidents were “state-
sponsored” to create a scenario that would lead to the cancellation of
the 2010 presidential elections, or at least a crackdown on the
opposition.

“Already, there are speculations that these bombings are state-
sponsored to pave the way for a ‘no-elections’ scenario. The police
should crack these cases open to dispel these dangerous speculations
as soon as possible,” Enrile said in a statement.

Relatedly, opposition leaders openly voiced fears that the bombings,
blamed separately on Muslim rebels and bandits, among others, may be
part of a bigger scenario to justify a crackdown on critics readying
protests when the President addresses Congress on July 27; and worse,
to allow a holdover scenario where the outgoing President stays on to
reestablish order.

For his part, Enrile added, “As Senate president and as an ordinary
Filipino, I am appalled by the latest spate of bombings in Mindanao,
particularly in the cities of Cotabato, Iligan and Jolo. I condemn in
the strongest possible terms these cowardly and terroristic acts that
must not go unpunished.”

Gonzales’s remarks scrutinized

IN an earlier interview at the Senate, Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, defense
committee chairman, asked Malacañang to explain the statement of
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales “for stating that there
must be a revolution in this country and a transition government must
be set up and President Gloria Arroyo to head that transition
government.”

“Secretary Gonzales should be fired from his position, being the
national security adviser,” Senator Biazon told reporters, pointing
out that the statements made by Gonzales only worsen the situation
amid talks of destabilization plots and unabated bombing raids by
still-unidentified suspects. In the House, his view found an echo in
Party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan, who also denounced
Gonzales’s remarks.

Sen. Loren Legarda, in a separate statement, said: “Instead of
brushing aside speculations that government may have something to do
with them, the Arroyo administration must do its duty to—number one,
stop future attacks through diligent intelligence work by the police
and military; and, number two, by bringing before the bar of justice
those responsible for the attacks that had already been committed,”
she said.

The senator said that if the bombings were carried out by some
misguided elements in the government, then the Arroyo administration
must realize the people can easily see through their ploy to foment
destabilization.

At the same time, Legarda joined Enrile in calling on the government
and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to get back to the
negotiating table in order to put an end to the Mindanao conflict “so
the thousands of displaced people can return to their homes and live a
normal life.”

Opposition’s worry

This developed as opposition leaders, while condemning the bombings,
expressed worry that certain administration “bright guys” might be
setting the stage for a scenario to justify a crackdown on government
critics and an extension of President Arroyo’s stay in power.

“We urge the public to be vigilant. Clearly, the perpetrators of these
acts are willing to sacrifice the lives of civilians to achieve a
political agenda,” Akbayan’s Hontiveros said.

“We believe the bombings are politically motivated,” she added. “The
‘terrorist card’ could always be used by Malacañang to extend GMA’s
stay in power. The climate of fear created by these bombings benefits
the GMA administration as it seeks to rationalize its plan to stay in
power after 2010.”

What makes the bombings suspicious, Akbayan added, “is that they are
happening after National Security Adviser Bert Gonzales called for a
transitional revolutionary government, which is to be headed by no
less than [Mrs.] Arroyo. These acts of violence could be trial
balloons for something more brutal that it could use to rationalize a
declaration of martial law or an unconstitutional takeover by the
military.”

Binay’s warning

Makati Mayor and United Opposition president Jejomar Binay said the
next few months will be critical to the opposition as it prepares for
the possible declaration of a state of emergency, and even martial
law, if the bombings continue.

“We are expecting Malacañang to draw up a scenario where eventually
the opposition will be implicated in bombings and so-called
destabilization plots,” he said.

“Executive Secretary Ermita has always said that Mrs. Arroyo will
declare martial law if there is chaos, and these bombings are intended
to create a perception of chaos,” he said.

Binay said the present situation bore similarities to the months prior
to the declaration of martial law in September 1972.

“What we are seeing is a reinvention of the martial-law playbook of
1972. But the motive is the same: the hunger for power,” he said.

AFP junks ‘far-fetched theories’

IN Davao City, the Armed Forces’ (AFP) Eastern Mindanao Command
(Eastmincom) has directed its big units to deploy some of their
personnel to populated centers and convergence areas across Mindanao,
following the successive bombings in Cotabato City and Iligan City
this week.

But Eastmincom spokesman Major Randolph Cabangbang said Lt. Gen.
Raymundo Ferrer has urged sobriety, saying that there was no direct
connection yet on the bombing on Monday in Cotabato City and on
Tuesday in Iligan City.

An independent peace body, InPeace Mindanao, called for an independent
investigation into the bombings, suggesting that it also look “into a
military plot intended to stage emergency rule.”

Cabangbang said the Eastmincom would deploy the troops in standby at
its headquarters in Camp Panacan, north of downtown Davao City, to the
divisions and the latter to the brigades. “The directive was to deploy
more units to the places of convergence like schools, churches,
markets, town plazas, seaports and airports.”

“There is also the provision for establishment of additional
checkpoints in the national highways,” he said.

But he said that Ferrer “has made it clear that people should not be
alarmed at what was happening.”

Meanwhile, Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Philippine Independent
Church
in Cagayan de Oro City, a convener of InPeace Mindanao, said
his group would “urge the authorities to look beyond the Muslim
terrorist propaganda fanned by the AFP, and see that one possible
motive of the bombings is to sow chaos and fear in Mindanao to pave
the way for a state of emergency.”

InPeace Mindanao was formed in 2003 after the series of bombings in
Central Mindanao and the bombing of the Davao International Airport
and the Sasa Wharf. It also participated in the investigations of
allegations that the bombings were designed by the AFP to derail the
peace negotiations between the government and the MILF.#

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