A small item in PDI today carries the news that the US State Department's Rewards for Justice Program is rewarding two Filipinos with a cool $500,000 for information that led to the arrest last year of a key terror suspect in what still stands as the DEADLIEST terrorist attack on the Philippines since Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf have been in business -- Superferry 14 on February 26, 2004 which took 116 Filipino lives just weeks before the Madrid train bombings.
Hilarion del Rosario Santos III, the alleged head of the Rajah Solaiman Movement, a group of Christian converts to Islam that has been closely associated with Al Qaeda-linked militants, was arrested in southern Zamboanga city in October together with six other suspects. His group is believed to have links to Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf, which is operating in the southern Philippines, and was suspected in the February 2004 bombing of a ferry in Manila that killed 116 people and the simultaneous bombings in Manila and other cities a year later, which killed eight people. He also was connected to plots to attack the US Embassy in Manila and American citizens, the embassy said.What has been completely forgotten in all of this is how Gloria Macapagal Arroyo treated this bombing, which had come inconveniently, just as the 2004 Election Campaign season started and she was busy plotting FPJ's defeat. Here is TIME Magazine's August 2004 condemnation of GMA:
The unassuming young man who bought a ticket for Berth 51 on the 1,747-passenger SuperFerry 14 sailing from Manila to Bacolod and Davao on Feb. 26 called himself Arnulfo Alvarado. If security officials in the Philippines checked ferry-passenger lists—they don't—the name would have set off deafening alarm bells. Arnulfo Alvarado, say Philippine officials, was the name of a member, now dead, of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group. Two other Abu Sayyaf operators have used Alvarado's name to carry out previous attacks, according to Philippine intelligence officers. This Alvarado, whose real name was Redondo Cain Dellosa, hauled on board a cardboard box containing a television set. The TV, according to investigators, was packed with 3.6 kg of TNT. Making his way to the cheapest passenger section in the bowels of the ship, Dellosa carefully placed the box on his seat and slipped away just before the ferry cast off. An hour after its 11 p.m. sailing, just off Corregidor Island, an explosion tore through SuperFerry 14, starting a fire that engulfed the ship and killed a hundred or more passengers (some likely victims are still unaccounted for and may be missing). According to investigators, Dellosa, who was apprehended four weeks later, confessed that the explosion was triggered by a timing device—and that he chose the cheap seats to maximize panic and loss of life.Amazingly, the Philippine government did not even announce what it already knew about the Superferry 14 bombing until October 2004, after the elections had been safely GARCIED.
Responsibility for the attack was immediately claimed by representatives of Abu Sayyaf, a group of Islamic separatists chiefly known for kidnapping for ransom in the southern Philippines. But just as rapidly, officials in Manila scoffed off the claim; President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo dismissed it as coming from "pranksters." Despite promises of a swift investigation into the attack, concrete conclusions about the cause of the explosion have yet to appear.
The person at the center of the US investigation, the purported founder of the Rajah Solaiman Movement who was arrested with six others in Zamboanga last year, is also known as Ahmed Islam Santos, whose younger brother, Dawud Santos got involved with last year's still mysterious Julius Babao Affair. It's just another one of those things for which the Public may never be told the truth. But it's pretty clear that Mike Defensor and that jerk Jonathan Tiongco are both mixed up in all this.
The President's managing of that deadliest terrorist attack on the Philippines by denying it's true terrorist nature reveals what a heartless political animal she truly is. Since the Palace was enmeshed in that entirely shameful controversy over FPJ's citizenship and the orchestrating of a series of public opinion polls in preparation for Garci's prestidigitation, and with the election campaign having just gotten underway, GMA was not to be bothered by a bunch of drowned and bombed Filipinos in the cruel seas near Bataan and Corregidor. Better to just attribute it to pranksters, even if there was a clear claim by the Abu Sayyaf, just a day after the bombing that they had done it!
Just as in the Angelo de la Cruz affair, and in every situation where honor and duty to country has mattered, Gloria has been a stunning and shameful failure.