Car Bombs Anyone?

By Jess G. Dureza

I was on the phone with Col. Dickson Hermoso of the 6th Infantry Division stationed in Cotabato City right after the bomb went off.  He said he just passed the blast site when he heard a loud explosion. When he looked back, he saw a huge black smoke rising. What first came to his mind was: No, it was not the trade-mark IED (improvised explosive device) usually used by “bombards”, a local name for those bomb experts of rebels or terrorists whose main technology uses mortar or howitzer cartridges for bomb making. The recent Cotabato bomb, which also triggered a fire in the buildings, could be made of dynamites or from ammonium nitrate mixed with fuel oil. It was a big bomb, no doubt.  Not to mention that the bomb was latched to a multi-cab left in the scene, a more expensive operation than leaving an old worn out, expendable “back pack” to explode.

LEVEL UP  –Are we entering the next-level phase of terrorism using “car bombs”? We know that terrorists in the troubled areas in other parts of the world are good at this.   And finding the real culprits are hard, unless some lucky breaks in the investigation take place — which is not usual as we know.

Interestingly, a series of explosions in various areas in the Cotabato  area followed. Looks like the “bombard” group is now in business!

BREAK DOWN  — But hold it folks! This could not have come from one single group as many may immediately conclude. Yes, the Muslim renegade groups “owned up” their bomb operations. But not all can be attributed to them. The fact is during times when law and order and normalcy break down and “hired hands” are available to do dirty jobs,  many “free riders” will ride on the occasion. Meaning, those who have personal grudges can bomb away their own enemies to settle a score. Or politicians or businessmen or plain vengeance seekers   who wish their opponents are gone to oblivion,   can conveniently eliminate them and    “charge it to the terrorists”.

ANGRY HOUSEWIVES — I remember at the height of the summary killings and “salvaging” in Davao in the early 1980’s by NPA “Sparrows” there was a proliferation of threat letters ostensibly signed by NPA hitmen.  I know several philandering husbands got threatening notes warning:   “leave your mistress o “isang bala ka lang”. Signed “Commander X”. Of course, no doubt these were  coming from angry housewives! Or a collection letter from hopeless creditors, sending demand letters signed by “Commander So and So.”. Don’t be surprised but the tactic worked in many instances. Better than demand letters from lawyers!

MINDANAO SEIGE  —    I  was not a bit surprised   to hear some of my media colleagues in Manila who attended the Round-table Media Forum at Hotel Rembrandt in Quezon City a few days ago   already having their own  advance conclusions on who were behind the recent bombings. The series of incidents are hard to ignore. In the face, one newspaper headlined “MINDANAO UNDER SEIGE”. Although we in Mindanao are worried about this, it is not accurate to paint the whole island region as in trouble.

How the authorities will solve this is something we need to know fast.  Chances are, until the next bomb explodes somewhere, we may  not be able to  get the bastards! With the many bombs already exploding within the last few days something must give!

The question is: why is  the PNP, the AFP and the rest of those in government INCLUDING THE CITIZENRY appear helpless in the fact of all this? What should we, plain citizens do to navigate this temporary atmosphere of fear and terror?

FOR COTABATO CITY —    I have a few suggestions, if I may, guided by  my past work facing similar past situations:
a. a dialogue or meeting be called to be attended by  multi-sectoral groups in Cotabato City or its environs where  citizens are given a chance to raise their anger, angst or disgust at the situation. Something concrete may evolve from there. Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI can be the focal person here. Business groups, NGOs etc must all converge.
b. a quiet dialogue be called among groups or personalities who are  key players or actors who can help ease up the situation. (like the Guianis and  Semas and the other political and influential  families in the area.)
c. a meeting of the ceasefire committees or the Ad hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG)  of the government and the MILF  be convened to tackle the situation;
d. the President, no less, should fly to  and  hold a Command Conference in Cotabato City to deal with the situation and receive and act on the inputs, if any from the multi sectoral group.

I am sure, there are already initiatives done along the lines of what I have outlined above. But I have not seen any these being relayed to the public. The citizens’ apprehensions must be allayed and eased.
But the undeniable fact must remain: WE CANNOT ALLOW THE BAD GUYS TO WIN. WE CANNOT ALLOW THE TERRORISTS TO DOMINATE OUR LIVES! Government cannot do it alone. Everyone must help!

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