THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has slowly pieced together the puzzle that was the presence of Police Supt. Maria Christina Nobleza and alleged Abu Sayyaf Group bomb maker Renierlo Dongon in Bohol. And that is partly because they were arrested and not killed, they left behind pieces of evidence and a lot of backgrounders could be dredged about them. The picture formed, though, is not by any means complete.
It does look at first blush like the couple is on a bombing operation. Which means it might not just be mere coincidence that they were in Panglao, Bohol where the Asean Summit meetings was held a few days ago. But some pieces of evidence are needed aside from the improvised explosive device (IED) components in the apartment rented by the duo. Nobleza has denied the bombing angle.
That can be likely considering that Nobleza and Dongon were arrested after they refused to stop at a checkpoint put up after an encounter in Clarin town with remnants of the Abu terrorists involved in a clash with government troops in Inabanga town a couple of weeks ago. They were possibly out to rescue the terrorists holed up in a cave in Clarin although Nobleza said their purpose was just to dump medicines for a wounded Abu.
Again, that can be likely because in the vehicle the two were riding in were an elderly woman and a child, which turned out to be Dongon’s mother and his son. How could Dongon involve them if the purpose was to rescue the Inabanga clash remnants?
Which brings me back to the uncompleted picture formed by the puzzle pieces recovered so far. What, for example, is the relation between the entry of pumpboat-riding Abu Sayyaf terrorists into the Inabanga river, which is almost a hundred kilometers from Panglao, and the presence of Nobleza and Dongon in the same Bohol island? Was the purpose to kidnap tourists as earlier believed or to bomb selected targets or both?
As I have written before, I have become suspicious of the kidnapping angle considering the size of the boats used by the Abus in going to Inabanga. Three small pumpboats for 11 gunmen won’t accommodate many passengers more. At least that was my theory when I referred back to the book “In the Presence of My Enemies” by Abu kidnap victim Gracia Burnham, who was among those kidnapped in Palawan in 2006.
Besides, Inabanga, being too far from the tourism centers of Panglao and Tagbilaran City (it is relatively nearer though to the Chocolate hills areas of Carmen and Sagbayan towns, but would still be hours of walk through exposed terrain), can only be a good jump-off point for kidnapping operations in the coasts of Mactan island in Cebu.
When asked about the intentions of Nobleza and Dongon the other day, Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Chief Noli Talino said, “Definitely terrorism, terroristic activities. Now dahil doon sa na-recover noong unang ebidensya, like yung mga IED components na-recover. Saan gagamitin yun? Of course, bomb. Kidnapping is another motive na pwedeng gawin.”
There is still a modicum of uncertainty in that statement. Even then, I hope the authorities, even if slowly, would still be able to solve the puzzle that is the Abus entry to Bohol.