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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

History of bombings in Davao City

THE Roxas night market explosion on Friday was not the first terror attack that hit Davao City.

As President Rodrigo Duterte said, “the bombings have been seasonal”, as he himself as mayor witnessed several bombing incidents in the past thirty years.

Sun.Star Davao compiles a list of the bombings that happened in Davao since 1981.

1981 April 19. On Easter Sunday, a bomb exploded during an Easter mass in San Pedro Cathedral. No data is available on the number of dead and injured. The online news Davao Today interviewed a witness, an elderly church vendor who recalled five fire trucks were deployed to clean up the church covered with blood.

The incident happened during Martial Law. The mayor of Davao City then was Luis Santos.

1993 December 28. Again San Pedro Cathedral was bombed, this time during a Sunday evening mass. Seven were killed and 151 wounded, 32 of which were serious. Three bombs exploded inside the cathedral, first at the center aisle, followed by another near the altar, and the last one at the main entrance.

The New York Times reported that a mosque was bombed by “Christian militants” eight hours after the incident but no casualties were reported.

Ucanews reported in 1995 that police and marine intelligence captured a suspect in Sulu linked to the Abu Sayyaf, which at that time was a newly-formed group with reports of bombings and kidnappings in Western Mindanao.

Rodrigo Duterte was on his second term as city mayor.

2002 May 16. An explosion from a room in Evergreen Hotel damaged parts of the hotel and mangled the legs of an American treasure hunter Michael Terrence Meiring, who was occupying that room. The American was taken by members of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation from a hospital and flew him back to the US. This angered Mayor Duterte who slammed the US for interfering in the investigation.

2003 March 4. The old Davao International Airport in Sasa was bombed late afternoon. An explosive was planted in a waiting shed, killing 22 and injuring 155 others around that area.

President Gloria Arroyo and military officials joined Duterte in visiting the wounded in hospitals. The government blamed “Muslim terror groups” such as the Jemaah Islamiyah, a network of Al Qaeda, behind the incident.

The bombing happened in the height of national debate on the United States role in the Philippines in its war on terror. Later in October, US President George W. Bush visited the Philippines and firmed up an support for an anti-terror campaign in Mindanao, which was widely protested by peace advocates.

Mystery surrounded the circumstance following the bombing. An independent Mindanao Truth Commission formed by religious and human rights lawyers noted that firemen immediately washed and cleaned the crime scene on March 5 upon Arroyo’s arrival. The cleanup of debris and fragments inadvertently thwarted the probe of American and Australian investigators who flew in that day that could have helped determine the nature of the bomb.

2003 April 2. Barely a month after the airport bombing, another explosion hit the entrance of the Sasa Wharf seaport, killing 16 and injuring 45 others. The explosion was placed in a barbecue stall which killed five members of a family selling food in the vicinity.

The 2003 twin bombings triggered of a series of mystery bombings all over Mindanao. The Mindanao Truth Commission probed that all over, arrests were made on Moro civilians as suspects, but all were released later on for lack of evidence. The Moro civilians testified that they were forced and assaulted by investigators to admit to the crimes.

The Truth Commission got testimonies from the Magdalo group of Trillanes which said senior officers ordered junior officers to bomb some public places after the airport bombing. They also pointed out that ISAFP Chief Victor Corpus was spotted prior to the bombing. The Commission raised the complicity of military officers in concealing information on the twin bombings.

2005 February 14. The Davao City Overland Terminal in Ecoland was ripped by an explosion around 6 in the evening, killing a 12-year old vendor. This was part of a series of bombings including one in General Santos City and in Makati. Abu Sayyaf owned up to the bombings.

2013 September 17. Two simultaneous explosions took place inside the movie theatre SM City in Ecoland and Gaisano Mall of Davao. The explosions were light and caused minor injuries to moviegoers. Police investigators found the explosives were planted in beverage containers. The incident happened after bombings rocked a restaurant in Cagayan de Oro and a busy intersection in Cotabato City in July. Duterte heightened security during the Kadayawan Festival as a result of this incident.

Then DILG Secretary Mar Roxas went around Mindanao and revealed intelligence report that another “Muslim group” was behind the bombings, but did not divulged further details.

Not one of these bombings in the three decades were ever solved. Like Duterte said, time and again, Davao City has been sacrificed at the altar of violence. Yet, Davawenyos pressed on collectively to seek strength, justice, unity and peace.


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