Cotabato bombing plot foiled, then hushed up
Cotabato City—City officials have asked state authorities in a martial law anti-terrorism operation to disclose the circumstances of an unidentified suspect arrested in a foiled bomb attack, designed to yield a series of explosions in Barangay Kalanganan II here.
City Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi said Tuesday she appealed to the police, the military and to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that more information about the arrested man should be made available to local authorities.
On Monday, Guiani-Sayadi also implicitly confirmed the arrest, saying: “If it wasn’t for the prompt action of the [composite personnel of] CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group], the City PNP [Philippine National Police] and the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines], several lives could have been lost, had the bomb exploded.”
But residents said local police have remained mum even a week after the authorities subjected the man to a warrantless arrest—as a terror suspect—which is part of the state’s martial law powers in effect in Mindanao.
The suspect had reportedly planted packs of improvised explosive devices in the fishing village of Kalanganan II, one of the hotly contested barangays in the recent barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
Human rights advocates, among them Christian clerics comparing the present martial law with the one during the Marcos era, have opposed President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law, which he even extended twice in less than a year.
Most locals, however, have said they felt relatively safe with the new martial law.
The arrest has remained mysterious, as the man’s name, his circumstances, and whereabouts had not been disclosed yet while being under interrogation.
Authorities traced the suspect from police leads provided by his alleged cohort, who had earlier surrendered to village authorities and admitted to being part of a plan to terrorize the barangay and SK polls last May 14 by planting bombs on specific points in that village.
It was not known if the suspects were hired by any candidate to perpetrate the crime.
State forces operating with martial law powers have considered bomb plotters as subject of clear-and-present-danger and are targets of arrest.
Arrests of anti-terrorism targets are allowed without a court warrant, with only an arrest order from the office of Secretary Lorenzana, being the martial law administrator.
Police said they had closely monitored the elections proceedings in Barangay Kalanganan II on May 14, even as they assigned some city police officers to serve as election board of canvassers since teachers had begged off the task because of fear.
The Kalanganan II has been in past elections’ recorded instances of violence.