MANILA (3rd Update) -- A group of "misguided" individuals protesting the government's alleged weak stance in the territorial dispute with China was behind the foiled bomb attack at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, de Lima said the arrested suspects are also against the country's oligarchs led by Filipino-Chinese businessmen who control a huge chunk of the nation's wealth. The tycoons are allegedly engaged in monopolistic practices and illegal mining, according to the group.
De Lima identified the suspects as Grandeur Pepito Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro and Sonny Yohanon, members of group USAFFE. All of them underwent inquest proceedings at the DOJ for illegal possession of explosives and firearms and a preliminary investigation hearing was set for September 12.
The three may also face charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism depending on the result of the ongoing follow-up investigation, she said.
"Is it just really about China? Is it just about the taipans? Is there a bigger agenda or any other agenda that can result in destabilization?" de Lima said, adding they want to know the group's supporters and financiers.
During the inquest hearing, lawyer Oliver Lozano said his clients are innocent and that a certain Norberto Paranga must be made liable because he allegedly had control of the vehicle which contained the explosives.
Lozano said Paranga borrowed the vehicle from Guerrero a week before the arrest on Monday.
"Guerrero had no idea about its contents," the lawyer, known for filing weak impeachment cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said.
He said he had received information the incident could have been planted to cause terror and use it as basis for extending President Benigno Aquino III's term after June 2016.
De Lima just laughed off Lozano's claim.
"With due respect to Attorney Lozano, it's a very fertile and wild imagination. What the NBI know is that there was an informant who told them about the group's plan, which led to the arrest and seizure of some pieces of evidence," she said.
The justice chief said an informant tipped the NBI on late Sunday evening that the group will push through with the plan the next day, which was supposed to take place on August 25, National Heroes Day.
The NBI then intercepted at the airport's parking lot B a white Toyota Revo loaded with improvised explosive devices, which the agency said are enough to cause fire and injure or kill people within the 5-10 meter radius.
De Lima said the group planned to read a statement titled "Manipesto ng Kilusan Laban sa Mananakop" if the attack was carried out. The group was also supposed to attack the Mall of Asia, office of DMCI Holdings, Inc. and fire bullets at the Chinese Embassy in Makati City.
"You can always espouse your advocacy. You can always have an opinion on certain burning issues of the country but you don't have to do it the wrong way. Who will benefit if you create chaos and sow panic to the community?" De Lima said.
She asked the public to remain calm but vigilant.
Apart from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam are claiming parts of the oil-rich West Philippine Sea.
Knowing it cannot defeat China by force, the Philippines brought Beijing's claims in Manila-controlled reefs and shoals to arbitration by the United Nations.
The Philippines is also seeking for a legally binding code of conduct and an end to provocative acts in the vital sea lane such as China's reclamation works. (Sunnex)