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‘Peace saboteurs behind bombings’

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday linked the recent blasts in the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato to some ‘sectors’ which are out to derail the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The President made the statement as the fatalities in the Cotabato blast climbed to eight, which already matched the death toll in the Cagayan de Oro blast ten days ago. The fatalities include two children and a policeman. The children were identified as Jeddin Menak,9, and Nasrudin Guialel, 14. The other fatalities were Suyoph Aji, Ahari Samsudin, Sungkala Satol, Senior Police Officer 4 Mama Manambuay, Heris Unto,35 and Salahudin Sindato. The blast also injured 30 others, including Chief, Insp. Abubakar Mangelen, intelligence officer of the PRO-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). “Huwag nating kalimutan na meron talagang mga ilang sektor na ayaw magpatuloy ‘yung ating peace process. At siguro, talaga namang pinaghahandaan ito, pero talagang magiging imposible na nandoon tayo parati sa lahat ng lugar, sa lahat ng oras para ma-prevent lahat ito,” Aquino said. (We have to remember that there are some sectors who do not want the peace process to continue. We have prepared for this, but it’s impossible that we can be in all places and at all times to prevent this from happening). The President held a media briefing on the subject after leading the welcoming rites for the country’s second warship, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. “Talagang ang mga terrorists by their nature, iilan lang sila, tagong-tago. Pero palagay ko mahahanap rin natin sila in the near future,” said Aquino, who had vowed to find the perpetrators behind the blast. “I’m sure we’ll be able to get all these culprits in due time,” Aquino said. The government has been negotiating peace with the MILF and has signed the Framework Agreement for Mindanao  in October last year. Both sides are in the final stages of the talks and have agreed on sensitive points such as wealth sharing. The President said he was convinced that there was no indicator that the bombings, particularly in Cotabato City Monday, had something to do with the global al Qaeda threat, despite the warning issued by the United States on Saturday against possible terror attacks by the terror group. “Wala tayong indicators na ganun ang pangyayari. Iisa lang naman ang terrorism angle.  We are exhausting all the leads,” he said. The MILF also condemned the attack. Muhammad Ameen, chairman of MILF Secretariat, said in a statement that “this kind of barbarism where civilians are deliberately targeted as means to deliver message for an evil agenda. “Whoever did this deserve the wrath of Allah,” the statement said. The successive bombings came a month after the United States, Australia and Canada warned their citizens against traveling to Cotabato and two other Mindanao cities. The powerful bomb which was rigged to a vehicle, exploded as a bulletproof SUV, carrying Cotabato City administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, was passing by. This prompted police investigators to theorize that the blast could be part of a political vendetta between rival politicians in the area. “Based on the initial findings, it appeared that politics could be the primary reason behind the incident,” Region 12 Police Director Chief Supt. Charles Calima said. Cotabato City police chief Roben Balquin had taken the same position, saying that the blast appeared to be aimed at Sayadi’s convoy. Sayadi’s brother Japal Guiani had won a second three-year term in May, defeating a former Cotabato mayor and senior leader of the MNLF, which signed a peace treaty with the government in 1996. Two of Sayadi’s bodyguards were among those killed by the blast, Balquin said. He added that the political angle became a possibility since none of the main armed groups in the southern island of Mindanao had claimed responsibility for the attack. Meanwhile, the President met with the Cabinet Security cluster to discuss the bombing in Cotabato City. Aquino said he is confident that authorities could bring the perpetrators to justice soon despite “the limitations of the military and the police.” He added that the police already have suspects who have been the objects of government concern for a very long time, but added that they are not sure whether these suspects were the ones who carried out the deadly attack. As this developed, the Philippine National Police said that investigators are looking into a “bomb-for-hire” angle in the bombing. “We could look at the possibility kung bakit bomb ang ginamit instead of ambush type. Instead of gun-for-hire, baka bomb-for-hire,” PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac said. Sindac also supported the political vendetta angle, saying that the target appeared to be Sayadi. “We are exploring that (bomb-for-hire) kind of possibility that this could be a new modus (operandi) because it can serve (the) purpose, especially pag ‘yung subject or target ay nakasakay sa isang bulletproof vehicle,” Sindac said. “One of the possible angles is personal attack on the city administrator and we are exploring this more seriously. But we are not discounting all other angles,” he added. ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, meanwhile, said the latest blast was the first to have been caused by a car bomb, since previous explosions were caused by bombs either left in motorcycles or wrapped in plastic.  He said car bombs are more common in the Middle East. With Florante Solmerin, Francisco Tuyay, and AFP
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