While authorities dismiss the recent bombings in Quezon City, Jolo, Iligan City and Cotabato City as mere pre-Sona “noises,” critics, martial-law era activists and analysts believe that an Arroyo regime desperate enough to hold on to power is capable of anything, including using its iron fist on Filipinos.
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — The series of bombings in the past week in Cotabato City, Iligan City, Jolo and Quezon City have triggered speculations among many Filipinos that the Arroyo administration might be laying the groundwork for the declaration of martial law.
Last week, an improvised explosive device exploded outside the Office of the Ombudsman in Quezon City. No one was hurt. The next day, bombs were found at the Department of Agriculture compound and outside a condominium on Katipunan Avenue, also in Quezon City.
On Sunday, a powerful blast ripped through a store across the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cotabato City. Six were reported killed and 30 injured.
Four more explosions occurred on Tuesday: one outside a church in Jolo, Sulu, and another beside a military vehicle in Iligan City. Two other bombs destroyed a power line in Lanao del Norte. All in all, at least six people were reported killed and 24 wounded in this series of bombings.
The military has blamed the bombing in Cotabato on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Southeast Asian “terror network” Jemaah Islamiyah.
These incidents have raised concerns and heightened speculations about possible emergency rule, with President Arroyo being accused of copying the iron-fisted rule of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose declaration of martial law in 1972 plunged the Philippines into the darkest period in its post-war history.
But there are those who urged the authorities to go beyond the “Muslim terrorist” angle.
Bishop Felixberto Calang of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, convenor of the ecumenical group InPeace Mindanao, said the bombings and the immediate blaming by the authorities of the MILF seem consistent with “Oplan August Moon,” an alleged military plot hatched by the generals belonging to the Philippine Military Academy’s Batch 1978 to help Arroyo keep herself in power by declaring martial rule. The MILF has been fighting for a legitimate war for self-determination in Muslim areas in Mindanao.
“The plausibility of this plot is also enforced by the statement of former intelligence agent and ‘Hello Garci’ whistleblower Vidal Doble, who said that he and other agents were ordered to stage bombings a few years ago to create a political condition favorable to the military,” Calang said, referring to the election-fraud scandal that is bedeviling Arroyo.
Arroyo earlier dismissed the bombings in Mindanao as pre-Sona “noises,” referring to her State of the Nation Address (Sona) before Congress later this month. The military and the police have likewise stated that the bomb scares were “ordinary” before Sona.
“The lack of conclusive information on the motives and perpetrators of the bombings reinforces the suspicion that either there is a failure of intelligence or the obfuscation is deliberately orchestrated to divert the public’s attention from the real issues and the threat of emergency rule,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño in a statement,
“With all the speculations circulating about the possible motives and perpetrators responsible for the bombings, we are appalled and alarmed about the lack of credible information from authorities. There still seems to be no official statement that points away from the Arroyo administration as the chief beneficiary of a chaotic scenario leading to repressive measures and emergency rule,” Casiño added.
In a statement, the Left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that the motives of the bombings can either be to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, or to divert public attention from pressing issues and to lay the basis for emergency rule.
The opposition thinks along the same line.
United Opposition (UNO) president and Makati mayor Jejomar C. Binay yesterday said the opposition is preparing for the possible declaration of a state of emergency and even martial law if the bombings continue.