The death toll from the Manila Mall bombing is now 11.

One editorial speculates that the mall, not the largest or most famous, was targeted because Makati is the center of the Manila business district.

This is the same reason the coup plotters of 2003 seized the Oakwood tower (part, not coincidentally, of the entire Glorietta complex). An attack on it sends the message, to the entire world, that the country’s financial capital is hostage to circumstance.

Thus, the sense of disorientation many Filipinos feel today comes not only from the magnitude of the tragedy or the number of victims it has claimed, but also from the symbolic nature of the target of opportunity: true innocents, in the center of Makati. If it can happen there, many of us think, it can happen anywhere.

.On the other hand, some some politicians are on TV blaming the government for the explosions. They are claiming the timing (i.e. with thelatest  political scandal) was just too coincidental,  and say it’s a ploy for the president to extend her powers, and even perhaps proclaim marshall law. This accusation is strengthend (they imply) now that C4 residue has been the wreckage.

C4 is a powerful explosive, but since the military are the only ones with C4 in the Philippines, the presence of C4 residue leads to all sorts of questions. Was the C4 smuggled in from Indonesia? Was it stolen? Was it bought from corrupt military officials? Or were corrupt military officials involved in the bombing? And if so, were they connected with any of the terrorist groups in the Philippines, or were they connected with the government?

However, giving the fact that the Indonesian bomb makers who fled to the Philippines after Indonesia cracked down on terrorist, were teaching the AbuSayyaf group how to make this type of bomb, and since the police and military here have been finding a lot of bombs in the south and worrying about similar bombings in Manila, most people figure they were behind it, and the rest of the rumors are just politics talking.

Then there are cellphone texts from the “Convert” terrorist groups. When the reporters called back, they got the cellphones of two different congressmen.

Were the phone calls real, or just someone playing a joke? Or were the phone calls planted to “link” these politicians with the bomb?

This terrorist group, which is composed of Tagalog ethnics who converted to islam while working in Saudi Arabia and then recruited, was behind a ferry bombing that killed 200 plus people.

But the Philippine experts doubt that this group was behind the bomb, since the police raided a safe house broke a major terrorist cell up last year, destroying a lot of bomb making material when the group was raided. However, did the police find all these terror cells? Did some of the terrorists get away?

Right now the military suspect it was AbuSayyaf behind the bomb, which now they believe was placed in the basement of the mall, in an attempt to collapse the structure.

Or maybe not.

The Inquirer
, contrary to other news reports, denies that the site tested postive for explosives, and quotes an anonymous investigator:

He also confirmed that the blast originated from a bunker oil container the size of a 20-foot container van located near a septic tank. The area also contained air-conditioning exhaust vents, a generator set, empty diesel tanks, and fuel that might have emitted dangerous fumes.
“The confluence of the mixture of gasses trapped inside a confined space will look for an outlet and needs release,” the expert said.

Since the US has several teams helping to investigate the explosion, eventually the truth will be known. Most locals might distrust the military but will guess the US might be truthful…or maybe not: one opposition Senator who sees a conspiracy wants Scotland Yard to do an independent investigation.
The US has a love/hate relationship with the Arroyo government. The US has been active in supporting the Arroyo government’s carrot and stick approach to terrorism: Going after militants aggressively while building up the infrastructure to benefit locals. However, the US has a lot of concern about the high level of corruption that is going on, and is worried about “extrajudicial killings” that have increased in recent years.  There is a lot of suspicion that the government has been too aggressive in going after non militants who have links with various militant groups, especially on the left: Several hundred “extrajudicial killings” have occurred, and most on the left point the finger at rogue police and military element hit squads as the culprit.
That is why after such a bombing occurs, fingers are pointing all over the place, some with realistic questions, others merely for political gain.

Another bizarre incident is that a restaurant in another section of the mall caught fire last night. Such fires point to carelessness, and give creedence to the possibility that the explosion wasn’t terrorism, merely an accident.

Or was it someone trying to cover up evidence?

No matter what the eventual investigation shows, none of this is good news for the Philippine business community.The stock market went down, and the worry that this will discourage much needed local investment is a real concern.

Already the incident is having negative effects on the business sector: Our relatives were at a nearby trade fair in Makati when the bomb went off.. The trade fair was aiming at export contracts for Philippine companies, and they said after the bomb, few foreign visitors came to the exhibition. And, of course, those seeking to invest in the Philippines will be less likely to do so if they feel that their businesses face not only corruption and theft but destruction by terrorist elements–or problems with the technical infrastructure due to carelessness or corruption.
One other note: Nearly everyone agrees that the response to the tragedy, including the police, ambulance, firemen, civilians at the site, and the hospitals that cared for the injured, did  a good job in rescuing and treating the wounded.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.

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