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Manila fetes bomb spotters

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on Monday honored three government employees who discovered the improvised bomb planted near the United States Embassy, as well as the street vendor who identified one of the suspects arrested in the foiled terrorist attack and the policemen who diffused the bomb.

Estrada gave Eli Balabagan, a street sweeper employed by the Department of Public Works and Highways P100,000, and Wenifreda Francisco and Maria Dolores Ostolano of the city’s Department of Public Services P50,00 each.  All three also received plaques of appreciation.

Josie Camacho, the street vendor, also received P50,000 in cash and a plaque. She provided police with an eyewitness description of one of the suspects.

Estrada also honored SPO4 Emmanuel Fallaria, officer-in-charge of the Manila Police District-Explosive Ordnance Division, and Chief Insp. Jay Dimaandal, chief of the Special Operations Unit, for responding at the scene, quickly disarming the explosive device and saving innocent lives. They also received P50,000.

Police said the IED, had it detonated, could have maimed or killed several people within a 100-meter radius. It consisted of an 81mm mortar round, cellphone battery and SIM card, a blasting cap and a nine-volt battery, like the one used in the September 2 bombing of Davao City that killed 15 people.

“Just a few days ago, we marked the 153rd birth anniversary of our hero, Gat Andres Bonifacio. Today, we are honoring a new breed of heroes here in the city of Gat Andres’ birth,” Estrada said in a ceremony at the Manila City Hall.

Estrada then introduced Balabagan, Francisco, Ostolano, and Camacho as “the new heroes of the city of Manila.”

“I’m sure that even Gat Andres Bonifacio is proud of their heroism for our beloved city,” the mayor added.

Balabagan, while sweeping the center island of Roxas Boulevard, found the suspicious package inside a garbage can. To her horror, she realized it was an improvised explosive device like what she had seen numerous times in the movies.

Balabagan, Francisco, and Ostolano further exposed themselves to danger by staying at the scene and directing pedestrians and motorists away from the explosive until police arrived.

“It was her quick observation, and just as quick reaction, that allowed personnel of MPD to move immediately and neutralize the threat of a bomb explosion in the middle of Roxas Boulevard, a bomb that could have injured and killed many innocent civilians and motorists, and caused significant damage to properties within the immediate vicinity,” Estrada said of Balabagan.

As for Camacho whom he described as “matang-lawin” (eagle eyed), the mayor said her keen observation and description of the man who left the bomb on the street led to the arrest of one of the three suspects, Jiaher Cali Guinar, in Caloocan City.

Estrada also praised the MPD officers who worked to diffuse the bomb, the investigators who tracked down the leads, and those who arrested the three suspects.

“Once again, you have all done excellent work and made the Manila Police District worthy of the title, ‘Manila’s Finest’,” he said. 

Estrada also commended MPD director Senior Supt. Joel Coronel “for his exemplary leadership of the MPD.”

Manila police subsequently arrested two suspects in Bagong Silang, Caloocan City, and Bulacan, Bulacan, and another one in Barangay Matimbo, Malolos.

Both were said to be connected to the Ansar al-Khilafah in the Philippines and to the Maute Group, which MPD said have pledged allegiance to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Muhammad Umao-As, the third suspect in the planting of a bomb near the United States Embassy. Manny Palmero
A third suspect was also arrested, an X-ray technician in a hospital in Malolos, who allegedly surveilled the vicinity of Rizal Park, where their group initially planted the IED. The fourth suspect was recently nabbed by police intelligence operatives in Subic, Zambales, as reported by PNP National Capital Regional Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde.

Coronel on Monday confirmed the identity of the fourth suspect as Elmer Romero, alias Jamal, 36 years old. He was arrested on Wednesday night in possession of a .45 cal. gun and a fragmentation hand grenade.

Coronel said because of the case build-up, and information given by the other three suspects, police managed to arrest Romero.  Two more suspects are being hunted, he added, declining to identify the suspects and their locations.

The group who bombed the Davao market earlier is probably the same group that planted a bomb at the US Emabssy. “The bomb signature is the same,” Coronel disclosed during an ambush interview in the Manila City Hall.

Romero also admitted to being involved in planning the bombing in the US Embassy, Coronel said, acting as a lookout and transporting the bomb from their safe house to the Roxas Boulevard area.

Coronel said the MPD is now on full alert because of the bomb threat.

“We have increased our police visibility and deployment, especially in Divisoria and Binondo areas,” Coronel said.

Topics: Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada , United States Embassy bombing plot
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