Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cases of Impeachment and Executive Clemency

Today's topic is the phrase CASE of IMPEACHMENT which is only applicable to certain very important high officials of the Government. By my count, there are exactly 31 impeachable officers under the 1987 Constitution, which provides in Article XI on Public Accountability--
Section 2. The President[1], the Vice-President[1], the Members of the Supreme Court [15], the Members of the Constitutional Commissions, [Comelec=7, CSC=3,CoA=3] and the Ombudsman[1] may be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust. All other public officers and employees may be removed from office as provided by law, but not by impeachment.
What is noteworthy in the above list is that the Judiciary has the most number of impeachable officials. The Congress has NO impeachable officials at all but it therefore makes sense to find the phrase in two more sections of Article XI that--
Section 3. (1) The House of Representatives shall have the exclusive power to initiate all cases of impeachment.
. . .
(6) The Senate shall have the sole power to try and decide all cases of impeachment. When sitting for that purpose, the Senators shall be on oath or affirmation. When the President of the Philippines is on trial, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court shall preside, but shall not vote. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of all the Members of the Senate.
So a CASE OF IMPEACHMENT is therefore a formal Judicial proceeding conducted entirely by the Political Branch of the Government. All cases of impeachment start in the House of Representatives and the Senate Impeachment Court decides the case in a trial.

Thus a major chunk of the JUDICIAL POWER is apparently vested entirely in the House and Senate of the Congress. The Supreme Court has absolutely NO JURISDICTION over all cases of impeachment. The Senate's verdict is final and executory and cannot be appealed to the Supreme Court, in all cases of impeachment.

The other relevant occurrence of the phrase in the 1987 charter is in the provision on Executive Clemency:
Section 19. Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.
This provision reaffirms the statement that the Congress, having no impeachable officials itself, holds the sole judicial power to initiate, try and adjudicate all cases of impeachment, making even the penalty or punishment specified for all cases of impeachment is "impervious" to the power of executive clemency. We have Father Bernas to thank for the formulation in The Prosecutor's Lament
What is there in impeachment cases that is impervious to pardon? We have to go back first of all to the nature of a pardon. “A pardon is an act of grace, proceeding from the power entrusted with the execution of the laws, which exempts the individual, on whom it is bestowed, from the punishment the law inflicts for a crime he has committed.” From this it is clear that there can be no pardon if no punishment has been imposed. Thus the prohibition regarding cases of impeachment can have applicability only if the impeachment process had ended in the imposition of a punishment, which it did not.

Joseph Estrada received no punishment from the impeachment that was started against him. The impeachment process was never concluded. In fact, even if it had been concluded, the only punishment he could have received would have been removal from office and disqualification from holding office in the government.If the Senate impeachment court never levied any punishment on Joseph Estrada in his Case of Impeachment before them, then there is no "perpetual disqualification from public office" for any pardon to reverse or impose on him?
I find Fr. Bernas' explanation a little disconcerting, though I would not adjudge his conclusions to be wrong, ipso facto. He says the trial of Erap's Case of Impeachment before the Senate was "never concluded" but that is obviously not true and he also says so.

His main point however, is that the only punishment that the provision renders impervious even to the power of granting executive clemency in all cases of impeachment is that of removal from public office and perpetual disqualification from office. This makes some sense because we know that these are the only punishments possible in all cases of impeachment.

But it also means that Fr. Bernas is saying even if an impeachable official is tried and convicted in a case of impeachment, he can still be pardoned in any subsequent CRIMINAL prosecution and conviction that becomes possible after being validly removed through a case of impeachment.

Suppose for example that GMA is impeached, tried and convicted on a charge of BRIBERY, according to my interpretation of Fr. Bernas, it means she can still be pardoned by a future President after she is subsequently tried and convicted in a hypothetical criminal and civil prosecution for bribery that would follow removal from office and perpetual disqualification.

Do you agree that this is the correct interpretation of the Provision on Executive Clemency in cases of Impeachment?

Is the opening clause "Except in cases of impeachment..." merely intended to provide that the President cannot nullify the punishment imposed by the Senate upon final conviction of a high Constiutional officer in a case of impeachment, but can do so in any subsequent criminal case against the same official?

Monday, October 29, 2007

If Erap's Pardon Is Constitutional, Resignation Becomes a Loophole and Mockery of the Law

Chief Prosecutor Dennis Villaignacio says they will question the constitutionality of Erap's pardon from GMA, despite an article by "Constitutionalist" Joaquin Bernas, S.J. declaring it okay by him. The 1987 Constitution contains this provision:
ART VII The Executive Branch Section 19. Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.
I think the question should be settled once and for all by the Supreme Court because of the following very possible scenario.

Suppose President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is impeached by the House and tried in the Senate in 2007, 2008, 2009 or 2010. Suppose further that, upon sensing that she is about to be convicted in the Senate Impeachment Court, and before a guilty verdict can be rendered, she voluntarily RESIGNS, but before she can flee to Hawaii or Shanghai, she is charged, arrested and convicted for plunder or some other capital crime and sentenced to reclusion perpetua, (exactly what happened to Erap.)

Now then, if the pardon for Erap by GMA in 2007 is deemed to be Constitutional, by parity of reasoning, the convicted Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would also be eligible for pardon, thus making a mockery of the clear intention of the Constitution to exclude cases of impeachment from the powers of the Presidency "to grant reprieves, commutations and pardons and remit fines and forfeitures."

In other words, if Erap's pardon is considered Constitutional, it would seem to me that we are allowing resignation to be a loophole by which an impeached Constitutional officer could defeat the Constitution and preserve his or her eligibility for reprieve, commutation of sentence and pardon in the subsequent criminal cases that could be brought against such officer after removal from office. It is a loophole that would certainly be resorted to once the impeached officer is relatively certain of conviction and removal from office anyway.

This seems to me to be absolutely unacceptable and a mockery of the Law.

Was Erap a case of impeachment?

Indubitably so, since the House of Representatives transmitted a case of impeachment against him in November, 2000 and his trial at a properly constituted Senate Impeachment Court began in December, 2000. Art. VII Sec. 19 explicitly states, "Except in cases of impeachment..."

Is there an ambiguity in the provision?

Yes there is, because the provision also explicitly states, that the various forms of executive clemency may only be granted "after conviction by final judgment."

In Erap's case, the events of Edsa Dos intervened, and though he was virtually certain of acquittal at the Senate Impeachment Trial after the Craven Eleven tipped their hand and showed Erap had the numbers for acquittal, the Supreme Court Chief Justice swore in the Vice President after she claimed the President was permanently incapacitated on 20 January 2001, which was later "construed" by the Supreme Court to be a valid resignation under the Constitution, in the historic case of Estrada v. Arroyo (March, 2001).

Thus it is now argued that there was a case of impeachment but no conviction by final judgment in that case. The conviction by final judgment now applicable to the pardon is that of the Sandiganbayan for plunder last September 12, 2007, six and half years after Erap's constructed resignation.

It would seem inconceivable to me that the framers of the Constitution intended for such a loophole to exist in cases of impeachment. The reason cases of impeachment are exempted from executive clemency would seem to be the serious nature of the high crimes and misdemeanors that qualify for impeachment of Constitutional officers. If they intended for resignation to be a means of preserving the possibility of pardon, they should have stated so in the Constitutional provision, explicitly.

The Supreme Court must settle this issue for all future cases of impeachment!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Either PDI Is Lying Or Four Anonymous Sources Violated Senate Rules

A commentary on the limits of Press Freedom in a democratic society.

Downloadable MP3 from ZTE Senate hearing

The first half of Thursday's Senate hearing on ZTE, Romulo Neri and Executive Privilege, was taken up by above heated discussion of the conundrum created by the Philippine Daily Inquirer's unrepudiated claims that four Senate sources revealed to reporter Juliet Labog Javellana what happened during a September 26 Senate Executive Session. The joint Senate committees went into Executive Session to hear Romulo Neri explain the assertion of executive privilege over his report to President Gloria Arroyo, of a 200 million peso bribe offer from Comelec Chair Ben Abalos.

In a front page article, two editorials and subsequent statements on television by a PDI senior editor, the Manila newspaper resolutely stuck to its claims, based on information allegedly received from those sources, that Senator Joker Arroyo had somehow prevented Romulo Neri from dropping a bombshell in the Senate's executive session, about his conversations with the President about the ZTE National Broadband Network deal.

But, whatever actually transpired in the Executive Session, has now been totally eclipsed by the possibility that the Philippine Daily Inquirer is telling the truth and that if so, there are in fact four persons who violated the strict confidentiality rules of the Senate and cannot be trusted to keep such sessions a state secret. If they are Senators, they could be expelled for such violation. If they are Senate staff members they could be dismissed. And since the only other person known to be in the executive session was Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, there are at least three possible "talkative" Senators or staff members facing heavy sanctions, IF the newspaper is in fact, telling the truth that it had four anonymous sources and is not engaging in its habitual and common practice of the art of the kuryente.

At one dramatic point in the Thursday hearing, Senator Joker Arroyo named each of the Senators present and asked each one directly to confirm or deny PDI's claim that one or more of them were the aforesaid unnamed sources that violated the Senate's rules on executive sessions. Only Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson responded to this challenge by categorically denying that he spoke to any reporter about the session. Everyone else kept quiet, though my DVD recording of the session shows a few of them looking like they had swallowed a canary.

There is now the following inescapable logical conclusion.

Either the Philippine Daily Inquirer is lying and it never had four Senate sources of information about what happened in the executive session, OR it is telling the truth and the Senate actually has a big problem with four rule-breakers whose continued anonymity has effectively compromised the security, confidentiality and hence the essential utility of the executive session as a tool of Congressional investigations in aid of legislation.

On ABSCBN's award winning program, Media in Focus with Cheche Lazaro, first aired a week ago last Thursday, Senior PDI editor John Nery (no relation to Romulo Neri) and the New York Times Int'l Herald Tribune Manila correspondent Carlos H. Conde, both defended the right of the press to use anonymous sources, as enunciated in Republic Act No. 1477, also known as the Press Freedom Act, whose entire substance is contained in the following provision:

Sec. 1. Without prejudice to his liability under the civil and criminal laws, the publisher, editor columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news-report or information appearing in said publication which was related in confidence to such publisher, editor or reporter unless the Court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State.
I was also a guest on that show and it seemed to me both John and Caloy were missing an essential point, because the main issue is not the freedom of the press to use anonymous sources as a general rule, but whether in this particular instance the editors of Inquirer abused their discretion to do so and had indeed violated the very law that protects such freedom. Throughout the show, I could not escape the impression that both these gentlemen believe the phrase in the law which reads "cannot be compelled to reveal the source of any news report or information" means they have a virtually unlimited right to publish such information if they believe it to be true or the source is considered by them to be reliable. Yet it is manifestly clear from a plain reading of the Press Freedom Law as quoted above, that there are definite limits to that freedom of the Press from being compelled to reveal such anonymous sources. In fact there are two explicit limits mentioned in the law. First the freedom to use anonymous sources is granted "without prejudice" to the publisher's "liability under civil and criminal laws," for example the laws against libel, blackmail, and oral or written defamation, character assasination and the like. Second, if "the Court or a House or committee of Congress finds that such revelation is demanded by the security of the State," the Press can indeed be compelled to reveal such sources, under pain of contempt, fine, imprisonment, etc., as befits the violation of this Press Freedom Law.

I think this incident, however it is now resolved, is an important watershed in our understanding of the very concept of Press Freedom and its limitations. Press freedom is limited as much by the Law as it is by moderation in the exercise of its rights and privileges, and ought to be informed by wise discretion. Editors, publishers and ordinary citizen journalists (bloggers) have the obligation to recognize these limitations in their avowedly hot pursuit of the Truth. Such pursuits do not trump any and all rights, privileges and powers of other institutions as important to Democracy as the free Press, like the Senate of the Republic, without whose viable and secure investigations and hearings, the Press would have neither stories nor sources.

Let me say that I stand four square behind the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its normally sagacious and perspicacious investigation of corruption and malfeasance in government, most of time without relying on anonymous sources, which always demands due diligence and discretion to avoid trouble. The abuse of Freedom of the Press however, can be just as dangerous and destructive when such abuse is carried out by the Press itself, as by fascists and authoritarians.

I hope PDI will now have the wisdom and maturity to come clean on this matter, not necessarily by revealing who those four sources are, but by at least admitting that they recognize the real limitations on Press Freedom which are essential to defending democracy and enhancing everybody's freedom, especially when it comes to matters of national and state security. I was aghast on the answer that John Nery gave on Media in Focus to my request for an example of what PDI would not publish in the course of their work because it might endanger state or national security. He said they would never publish the identities of persons in the Witness Protection Program. Maybe he didn't have enough time to think but this hardly reflects a good appreciation of what constitutes national or state security, since this example clearly refers to the security of a certain class of individuals, and not necessarily the security of the state.

Many individuals and institutions, including me, are keenly interested in discovering the truth about ZTE and what Romulo Neri knows about it. I also strongly dislike the manner in which Joker Arroyo seems to be trying to keep the Truth from coming out. But what PDI did has not helped, it has only hindered the Senate's investigation by throwing into that rambunction bunch four apples of doubt and discord.

John Marzan of Philippine Politics '04 reviews what happened to the New York Times reporter Judith Miller in the United States when she refused to reveal an anonymous source, who turned out to be Karl Rove.

Senate Rule XLVII on Executive Session
Senate Rules of Procedure on Executive Session and Public Hearing
Lovers Quarrel: Looks Who's After Joker Arroyo Now
Joker Spars With Philippine Daily Innuendo
Reporter's Omerta and the Art of the Kuryente
Dissing the Senate
Spying on Senate Session on Presidential Executive Privilege Was A Violation of National Security
PDI Leak Has Destroyed Senate Executive Session as a Tool of Congressional Investigations in Aid of Legislation
King Solomon Just Cut The Baby In Half
Philippine Commentaries on Executive Privilege
Philippine Commentaries on the Public's Right to Know

Friday, October 26, 2007

All Fall Down

Ring around the rosie,
Pocketful of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down!

I don't know why, but I woke up this morning with this old Mother Goose nursery rhyme tinkling ominously in my head. Yes, ominously, because though I haven't thought about it for years and years, its simple lyric and rhythm have always evoked my worst and most undefinable fears, like the quiet, opening music to every scary movie that in childhood I told myself I would never, ever watch again. Hearing it in my head somehow presages the beginning of some nightmare with that barely audible refrain, just before the scarecrow inexplicably turns its head in an imitation of a man on the Cross, or birds like locusts appear --

Ting ka-ting katingting
Ting ka-ting katingking
Boom bam, boom bam
Baroom bam boom!

Is it a prophecy or a remembrance?

I can not tell. Perhaps, I shall figure it all out as the spears of the morning sun dispel the vaporous shield of the night and we all emerge into the common waking dream...Updates all day on this strange and evil day...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Former President Joseph Estrada Pardoned By Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has granted executive clemency to former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, in an order read by Acting Executive Secretary Ignacio Bunye at Malacanang Palace. The pardon takes effect immediately and negates the penalties resulting from Estrada's Sept. 12 plunder conviction before a special Sandiganbayan Court after six and half years of detention and prosecution by Philippine authorities. Transcript and audio recording of the announcement follows.

Downloadable MP3 of Grant of Executive Clemency (Pardon)


Whereas this administration has a policy of releasing prisoners who have reached the age of 70,

Whereas Joseph Ejercito Estrada has been under detention for six and a half years,

Whereas Joseph Ejercito Estrada has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or public office,

In view hereof, and pursuant to the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua.

He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights. The forfeitures imposed by the Sandiganbayan remain in force and in full, including all writs and processes issued by the Sandiganbayan in pursuance hereof, except for the bank accounts he owned before his tenure as President.

Upon acceptance of this pardon by Joseph Ejercito Estrada, this pardon shall take effect. Given under my hand, at the City of Manila, this 25th day of October, in the year of our Lord, 2007.

Gloria M. Arroyo

Ignacio R. Bunye,
Acting Executive Secretary.


Former President Fidel V. Ramos was very much against the widely expected pardon. No wonder his man at Malacanang Palace, Executive Secretary Ed Ermita did not read the Grant of Executive Clemency and is reportedly on the other side of the world in New York.

Estrada lawyer Rene Saguisag told ABSCBN News that while he agreed with the grant of pardon for humanitarian purposes, he also characterized it as the "act of a tyrant" trying to mitigate her unconstitutional ouster of a sitting President in conspiracy with military and civilian leaders, starting one year before the historic events of January 2001, when indeed "Erap" was removed from office with the help of Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo T. Reyes whose mutiny was later blessed by the Supreme Court as a "withdrawal of support" and most especially Hilario G. Davide, Jr. wearing the costume of the Supreme Court Chief Justice.

Saguisag noted with not a little chagrin and irony that a number of very high profile corrupt criminal personalities are still running around free in Philippine society and ought now to be prosecuted properly and finally punished. For eample: Imelda Marcos and a whole rack of Marcos cronies holding high positions and large business enterprises; Joc Joc Bolante of the fertilizer scam, as well as the aforementioned Gen. Reyes and Injustice Davide.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nene Pimentel Defends the Terrorist's Bill of Rights (aka Human Security Act of 2007)

Last Friday's deadly blast at the Glorietta 2 shopping mall in Makati City has officially been ruled a "gas explosion by the Philippine National Police". Nevertheless it could've easily been a real terrorist bomb attack with similar effects on infrastructure, populace and government. We need to be prepared for such a terrorist strike by reviewing disaster coordinating plans such as fire, medical and of course the over all law enforcement scheme. We need to look at the existing anti-terrorism law in the light of what was not a terrorist strike, but could've been. It is now, and not later, that we must examine the law and see how it would've performed if this had been a work of terrorism. It's not a pretty picture, actually.

Contrary to everything you might have been told, the Human Security Act of 2007 is NOT really an anti-terrorism measure, but a Terrorist's Bill of Rights. Senate Minority Leader AQUILINO "NENE" PIMENTEL along with his sidekick, the CPP NPA's newest recruit, fellow Senator Jamby Madrigal, made sure of that! They are primarily responsible for the most absurd flaws in Republic Act 9372, the Human Security Act of 2007, for example, :
Section 62 [Effectivity Clause] ..After the publication required above shall have been done, the Act shall take effect two (2) months after the elections are held in May 2007.

Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.
This is like telling the terrorists exactly when it would be advisable for them to commit terrorist crimes, like for example the bombing of malls, ports, airports, train and bus stations, or the kidnapping of missionaries like Giancarlo Bossi, the beheading of Marines, and of course the extortion, murder and cell site bombing activities of the New People's Army.

Right now for example, this very strange "part-time" law is in suspended animation for three months because of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, scheduled for October 29. Thus, any criminal act that would otherwise be considered a terrorist act and thus be punishable under it which is committed between now and just before New Year's Eve, is NOT a terrorist act for the purposes of the law. This is not only strange and twisted, thanks to Pimentel and Comrade Madrigal, it is also possibly a fatal flaw in the statute which could be questioned in the Courts if and when it is ever applied, for bringing absurdity to the very concept of a crime.

Now let's take a careful look at Senator Pimentel's Press Release today defending a law to which he once bragged that he added over a hundred "human rights" amendments:
PRESS RELEASE: Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said the temporary suspension of the anti-terrorism law (Human Security Act) during the election season does not render law enforcement and security agencies helpless in going after terrorists.
Really?? But since the law is what defines terrorism as a crime and therefore, who qualifies as a terrorist for committing such crimes, and it so happens to be suspended in totality during this period, how in the world can the honorable sophistic Senator Pimentel make such a claim? There are NO crimes that can be considered terrorism during this period, and therefore no "terrorists" for the police to go after. The Press Release continues...
PRESS RELEASE: Pimentel said the Philippine National Police and other law enforcement agencies can still rely on the Revised Penal Code and other applicable laws to file and prosecute criminal charges against terror suspects during the suspension of the effectivity of the HSA (Republic Act 9287) one month before and two months after the October 29 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
True enough, but I notice he even got the damn number wrong and the release calls it Republic Act 9287 when it is RA 9372. But it certainly is a totally vacuous and superfluous statement for the good Senator to say that the cops can enforce the Revised Penal Code, since they are supposed to enforce it, with or without his say-so!
PRESS RELEASE: He was reacting to the criticism of security and justice officials of the executive branch that the HSA has been reduced to a toothless law during the election period, specially in the wake of last week's alleged bombing of the Glorietta 2 Mall in Makati City which was suspected to be the handiwork of terrorists.

"They are correct in saying that the Human Security Act is inoperable at this time. But this does not mean our law enforcers will be helpless in combating terrorism because there are other laws that they can apply. There is, for instance, the Revised Penal Code that they are presumed to be familiar with," the minority leader said.
Since it was his doing, he now defends this provision in the law as follows:
PRESS RELEASE: Pimentel explained that the temporary suspension of the HSA during the election period was incorporated by lawmakers to prevent a situation where unscrupulous political forces may take advantage of this law to harass, harm and even kill rival leaders especially from the opposition and progressive groups.

In other words, he said the suspension clause was intended to be a safeguard against a possible escalation of violence and extra-judicial killings which have been a scourge of society in recent years due to the failure of the political leaders to clamp down on rogue elements in the military and police.
Now this really takes the terrorist cake! The only thing the "temporary suspension" clause does is precisely to encourage those "unscrupulous political forces" like the murderous Abu Sayyaf and the extortionist NPA to take advantage of the law to "harass, harm and even kill" and to "escalate violence" during this period.

With nary a trace of shame or self-consciousness, Pimentel declares the police and military as the "rogue elements" responsible for extrajudicial killings in the country. Weren't those Basilan Beheadings for example "extra-judicial killings"?? Yet why are they given a special conduct pass such that they can escape being punished for terrorist acts during a period when it would be most devastating in fact for such terrorist individuals and organizations to be launching attacks on our democratic way of life--namely during elections?

Next I wonder what the following provision means for Pimentel's theory:
SEC. 49. Prosecution Under This Act Shall Be a Bar to Another Prosecution Under the Revised Penal Code or Any Special Penal Laws. - When a person has been prosecuted under a provision of this Act, upon a valid complaint or information or other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused had pleaded to the charge, the acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case shall be a bar to another prosecution for any offense or felony which is necessarily included in the offense charged under this Act.
But perhaps the most atrocious provision of the entire law is this one:
SEC. 50. Damages for Unproven Charge of Terrorism. – Upon acquittal, any person who is accused of terrorism shall be entitled to the payment of damages in the amount of Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) for every day that he or she has been detained or deprived of liberty or arrested without a warrant as a result of such an accusation. The amount of damages shall be automatically charged against the appropriations of the police agency or the Anti-Terrorism Council that brought or sanctioned the filing of the charges against the accused. It shall also be released within fifteen (15) days from the date of the acquittal of the accused. The award of damages mentioned above shall be without prejudice to the right of the acquitted accused to file criminal or administrative charges against those responsible for charging him with the case of terrorism.
Here is why Nene Pimentel thinks it's okay for this law to be suspended for three months at a time around every election:
PRESS RELEASE: In fact, Pimentel said that his original position was that there was no need for a separate anti-terrorism law on the ground that the Revised Penal Code and other existing laws were sufficient to equip law enforcers with the legal weapon to combat terrorism. He said he had also warned that the enactment of the new law would only result to redundancy which is bound to cause confusion in the criminal justice system.
What an immoral, unprincipled hypocrite the Senate Minority leader turns out to be. Why in the world did he sign the law then, if he thinks it redundant and confusing? Why did he sign it and then call for its immediate repeal just days after promulgation? Why? Because he is, in the quaint idiom of our times, an utter idiotarian.

By the way, there are about 44 provisions that punish law enforcement agencies and tie their hands and feet with the threat of jail terms and financial penalties if they so much as violate any of the sancrosant Rights and Privileges of terrorist suspects also put in the law by Pimentel and Madrigal. For example, on the matter of electronic surveillance and wiretapping of terror suspects, which under the law can only be done under warrants from a special division of the Court of Appeals, Pimentel requires law enforcers under Section 11 to inform terrorist suspects that they have been surveilled, if no case of terrorism results after a total of 30 days:
Section 10 Effective Period of Judicial Authorization If no case is filed within the thirty (30)-day period, the applicant police or law enforcement official shall immediately notify the person subject of the surveillance, interception and recording of the termination of the said surveillance, interception and recording. The penalty of ten (10) years and one day to twelve (12) years of imprisonment shall be imposed upon the applicant police or law enforcement official who fails to notify the person subject of the surveillance, monitoring, interception and recording as specified above.
The other seeming absurdity in the law, which was put in by Jamby Madrigal is this one:
Section 7. Surveillance of Suspects and Interception and Recording of Communications. – The provisions of Republic Act No. 4200 (Anti-wire Tapping Law) to the contrary notwithstanding, a police or law enforcement official and the members of his team may, upon a written order of the Court of Appeals, listen to, intercept and record, with the use of any mode, form, kind or type of electronic or other surveillance equipment or intercepting and tracking devices, or with the use of any other suitable ways and means for that purpose, any communication, message, conversation, discussion, or spoken or written words between members of a judicially declared and outlawed terrorist organization, association, or group of persons or of any person charged with or suspected of the crime of terrorism or conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Provided, That surveillance, interception and recording of communications between lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, journalists and their sources and confidential business correspondence shall not be authorized.
Senator Pimentel is thus the Founding Father of the Magna Carta of Terrorism in the Philippines.

It is time for thoroughgoing review of the Human Security Act for the purpose of expunging from it most of Pimentel and Comrade Madrigal's handiwork and the adoption of a real anti-terrorism law without all the provisions that actually protect, encourage, abet and promote the terrorist agenda of violent nihilists, craven kidnap for ransom gangs, and the rest of the organized criminal syndicates posing as "revolutionaries" and "national liberators."

I think that contrary to Pimentel's claims ,the law in its present state unduly hampers the anti-terrorism efforts of the government and our allies. His reasons for it, place politicians and their interests (as well as murderous rivalries) above the human security needs of ordinary citizens.

Erap and Gloria and Bubba and Paula and Sonny and Angie

"WHAT DIVERSION?" one may ask of the Makati Mall Blast (now found to be an "accidental gas explosion"). Nary a political beat was skipped as the political arpeggio builds to a new crescendo after a collective gasp of paranoia and prejudgment (even here at Philippine Commentary). There were many theories about whodunit, but all alone in a league of pure nuttiness was this, from Billy Esposo.

There is little time to pause, however, as major political developments take center stage once more.

The first is Precedent Joseph "Erap" Estrada's pending "full, free and absolute" pardon from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after his decision not to appeal his plunder conviction. A pox on both their houses, the PDI editorial says, without mentioning how their Sacred Cow, Hilario "Golden Calf" Davide made this absurdity of Justice possible with his false doctrines of constructive resignation and withdrawal of support. The root of all this evil, in my opinion, lies in Davide's destruction of constitutionalism in 2001, still ongoing from on high wherein the Supreme Court has usurped the Congress' exclusive and sole power to remove Constitutional officers with that silly impeachment initiation rule; consecrated the principle that if a military mutiny and coup d'etat works then it is legal and we must acquiesce; and their ongoing power grab of Commander-in-chief powers in the so called human rights "rules" of amparo and habeas data, which come into force this week! Of relevance to these issues are two statements that I recorded yesterday:

Downloadable MP3 of Twink Macaraig interviewing Atty. Leonard de Vera of the No Pardon for Erap Movement

Downloadable MP3 of Pia Hontiveros and Tony Velasquez interviewing Atty. Rene Saguisag

All this seems to be making Luis Chavit "Jueteng and Smuggling Lord" Singson nervous.

But a second development of great historical interest is the suit filed before the Ombudsman by lawyer Harry Roque and former vice president Teofisto Guingona against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo which challenges the notion of Presidential immunity from suit. For such normally rabid anti-Americans it is noteworthy that they cite as their justification a precedent in the United States Supreme Court decision in the matter of Paula Jones' lawsuit against then President Bill "Bubba" Clinton for sexual harassment.

The Washington Post has this excellent summary of that most interesting case, including the SCOTUS decision in Jones v. Clinton and the background developments that led to it.

I was just kidding about Harry and Tito being anti-Americans, but am dead serious about Erap and Gloria and Sonny and Angie all going to jail together, with a 24/7 webcam for all to look into a mirror of our own delusions. And of course, somehow, Hilario G. Davide must also be punished for his destruction of the Constitution, of separation of powers, of checks and balances. If he gets away with that, anything that happens to punish his creations will be for naught. It is his destructive memes that are the root of these present evils.

We do not need the false gods of unconstitutional moralism and elitism. We need Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, Public Accountability. We need to fix the machine of Democracy that the barrio carpenters have "constructively" destroyed by their tinkering and judicial activism. Else, all is for naught!


EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING: Manolo Quezon (ABSCBN, The Explainer) delivered precisely the right message on his show last night, even before he had uttered a single word of actual explanation, when he chose for his audience a troop of Boy Scouts, whose enduring motto is of course: BE PREPARED! For although the October 19 Makati Mall blast was more than likely an accidental gas explosion, the lessons the Public and the authorities ought to learn are substantially the same, for the effects of a real terrorist attack on the populace are well enough approximated, at least qualitatively by this incident. The human tragedy in loss of life and limb, as well as mental security, are perhaps no less in all of these cases. It is NOW, before terrorist attacks do occur (may they never!) that the Filipino people and their government should undertake the serious task of preparing for the eventualities that have already touched us in the past, and is bedevilling many other countries today. Congratulations to that show's producers and participants for an important and essential message: BE PREPARED!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Senator Trillanes and "Sheik Omar" May Be Culpable Under Human Security Act

It is now a virtual certainty that last Friday's Makati mall blast was an "industrial accident" (most likely a diesel-methane gas explosion of the deflagration type) and NOT a terrorist attack by either the Rajah Sulayman Movement or a rogue AFP unit. No credible evidence supporting these two scenarios has been discovered by Philippine investigators working with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Australian National Police, whereas evidence is building for an accidental gas explosion.

However, I believe that the Human Security Act criminalizes the attempt of someone posing as "Sheik Omar" to claim last Friday's deadly explosion was the work of terrorists. By parity of reasoning Senator Antonio Trillanes may also be culpable for accusing National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon of masterminding and carrying out what would amount to a terrorist act based on alleged evidence he has from a network of informants or allies within the police and military. These are intrigues and possibly false testimonies outlawed by the following provision of the Human Security Act (Republic Act 9372), the Philippines Anti-Terrorism Law:
SEC. 47. Penalty for Furnishing False Evidence, Forged Document, or Spurious Evidence. – The penalty of twelve (12) years and one day to twenty (20) years of imprisonment shall be imposed upon any person who knowingly furnishes false testimony, forged document or spurious evidence in any investigation or hearing under this Act.
Although Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon, talking to Pia Hontiveros on ABSCBN News Strictly Politics tonight, described as a "prank" the text message and phone calls from someone posing as "Sheik Omar" of the "Rajah Sulayman Movement" and claiming responsibility for last Friday's Makati mall blast, the above provision ought to be applied against anyone who attempted to portray the incident as a terrorist attack. The accusations of Senator Trillanes against top national security officials and the claim that he has evidence against them, could lead to his prosecution for violation of this same provision if that evidence turns out to be "spurious" as in being nonexistent or untrue. Morally, and for the purposes of upholding the spirit of this anti terrorism law, all these hoaxers and false accusers should be prosecuted, in my humble opinion.

There is only one fly in this ointment: The Human Security Act, which I now prefer to call the Terrorists Bill of Rights is currently SUSPENDED for three months because of the barangay elections.
Section 62. After the publication required above shall have been done, the Act shall take effect two (2) months after the elections are held in May 2007.

Thereafter, the provisions of this Act shall be automatically suspended one month before and two months after the holding of any election.
Sheik Omar and Senator Trillanes can therefore thank Comrades Jamby Madrigal and Nene Pimentel for putting these provisions in the law! Trillanes, has until December 30, Rizal Day, to prove his allegations or withdraw his so called evidence, if any, or be culpable under this law, which comes out of "suspended animation" around then.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Was Makati Blast an Explosive Gas Deflagration?

More than anyone ever wanted to know about ACCIDENTAL GAS EXPLOSIONS, can be found in the following online Gas Explosion Handbook (Access requires registration--and not for the mathematically faint-of-heart, but very informative, especially for systematic investigation of these types of explosions.) A sampling of the topics are shown in the list and links below, including the basic definitions, properties and different types of gas explosions, as well as, significantly for the authorities, accident investigation procedures.
Of special interest to everyone following the investigation into last Friday's deadly blast at Glorietta 2 shopping mall is Item #5 above on explosive DEFLAGRATIONS, where an explosive fuel-air mixture, such as diesel fumes, acetylene or even methane is ignited by a spark, hot surface or other accidental or intentional heat source within an initially confined or highly obstructed small space in which tremendous temperature and pressure buildup occurs, and then exits or vents into a unobstructed space wherein the pressure drops to normal atmospheric levels and there is no fire or flame, but all the energy is carried by supersonic or hypersonic debris.

This type of accidental gas explosion, where there is little or no fire in the unobstructed space that the explosion vents to, but a lot of high speed shrapnel and debris from the destroyed "confinement boundary material" is consistent with the type of injuries sustained by the victims reported by the receiving hospitals of last week's Makati blast, as well as the notable absence of fire in the first second and third floor levels affected. (However, we should hear about extensive fire or flame damage in that basement after the authorities announce further findings of what they observed down there.)

Have a good night's sleep for a change everyone! Time enough to think of the political and publicity fall-out tomorrow. For now I will only say:: God Bless America (and the FBI!) God Bless the Philippines!

WHATDUNIT and WHODUNIT-- Makati Mall Blast Day 3

These are the 64 thousand dollar questions needing definitive answers following last Friday's deadly explosion in the Glorietta 2 shopping mall in the Philippines central business district of Makati City. Establishing a truthful answer to them will require the strictest adherence to a logical and scientific discipline on the part of investigators and authorities. Unfortunately, some of the central figures in the evolving scenario, like the AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon and the National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, have been accused by detained Senator and alleged Oakwood mutineer, Antonio Trillanes, of planning and orchestrating the deadly explosion in order to divert attention from scandals and controversies hounding the administration. The accusation has not been backed up with evidence by Trillanes, who is detained at Marine HQ in Fort Bonifacio. But it has gained credence with several sectors, including the Opposition and the Media, many of whom express the suspicion that the blast may simply be a diversionary tactic meant to draw attention away from the serious political trouble the administration has found itself in after spectacular Senate investigations into the Hello Garci wiretapping and ZTE scandals, an impeachment attempt against Pres. Arroyo in the House of Representatives, and the alleged attempted bribery of over 200 Congressmen, governors and mayors at a Palace meeting the other week.

Based solely on the physical evidence being gathered at the blast site in the Glorietta 2 shopping mall, the only reliable conclusion that has been reached is that it was not an accident caused by a gas leak but was indeed a deliberate act involving the use of a highly explosive material. This material was announced by Philippine National Police officials yesterday to be RDX after an initial laboratory analysis of specimens taken from the blast site, now known to be centered in the basement area under the ground floor of the Glorietta 2 shopping mall. A crater in that basement, reportedly eight meters wide, appears to have been caused by the explosion, which also caused a section of the ground floor above it to collapse, and whose hypersonic blast wave, filled with concrete, steel and glass debris, caused at least nine confirmed deaths and over 120 injured. The high energy explosion, however, seems to have also obliterated to smithereens, most of the bomb or explosive device, its triggering mechanisms and other physical remnants, such that the PNP crime lab can only reliably report the detection of chemical residues of RDX, which is a known component of explosives widely used by for both military and industrial applications. As such, it may require a far more detailed and perspicacious physical evidence gathering activity that local authorities may not be capable of, given the level of data acquisition sophistication, investigative experience, laboratory examination equipment and forensic interpretation required. Thus, there would be absolutely no shame involved in accepting the assistance of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly offered through the US Embassy early Saturday. If they have not already done so, I strongly urge the authorities to seek out and accept such help from our allies given that the PNP crime lab may have already come up against the limits of its capabilities.

The possibility that the explosion was caused by a gas leak is well within the capability of the local police to investigate, and has already been eliminated by the absence of the tell tale scents and other physical characteristics associated with liquefied petroleum gas explosions, such as fire and the relatively low speed and force of such a blast's debris. Similarly, the local authorities are also quite capable of investigating the types of relatively crude improvised explosive devices that have been encountered in previous incidents in Mindanao and Metro Manila, such as the Rizal Day 2000 and Super Ferry 14 bombings (2004). In this case however, the police have refused to conclude anything about the explosion other than the nature of the high explosive, apparently for a lack of physical remnants from the explosive device involved. However, more physical evidence will slowly but surely be gathered from the blast site and shed more light on our first question of whatdunit, so let me turn to the second question: WHODUNIT?

Hours after the blast last Friday afternoon, ABSCBN News terrorism expert Maria Ressa deduced from the high degree of expertise and training necessary to pull off such a destructive operation, there are two main possible perpetrators, namely: (1) elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines or (2) the Al Qaeda backed Jemaah Islamiyah terror groups and their local allies and trainees.

Treating both possibilities as hypothesis to be scientifically verified or falsified, I have adopted here at Philippine Commentary the latter of the two. My previous posts clearly show this inclination to blame the Islamic Jihadists and the Moro rebel groups (ASG, MILF, MNLF) and until otherwise disproven, that continues to be my working hypothesis. Let me just call it the Jihadi Hypothesis.

Yesterday, retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles, who was a member of the Feliciano Commission that investigated the Oakwood Mutiny, put forward idea that if the Makati Mall Blast is the handiwork of a local Islamic terror group, like the Rajah Sulayman Movement which reportedly has claimed responsibility for it, it may be a sample or demonstration of their capability to attack major infrastructure in the Philippine capital meant to attract future financing from the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

The claim of responsibility for terrorist attacks in general would seem to be an essential ingredient of global jihadist strategy and tactics, especially after Nine Eleven since their main benefit to the perpetrators is the propaganda value of the attacks, which are militarily and physically small compared to conventional or nuclear warfare.

Thus the reported text message in which the RSM's spokesman "Sheik Omar" is said to claim responsibility for the Makati explosion is supportive of the Jihadi Hypothesis. The reported demand contained in the text message for the release of their founder, Hilarion Ahmed Santos, currently in the custody of Philippine authorities after RSM's role in the Super Ferry 14 bombing and sinking by the Abu Sayyaf Group in 2004, is also important to the establishment of a terrorist act under the Human Security Act of 2007 since it is a required element of the definition of terrorism as a crime therein.

The veracity and provenance of this claim of responsibility by the RSM was assailed overnight by a Philippine Commentary source who told me in confidence that either in addition to, or for some reason, instead of, a text message, the claim actually came in as a voice call and that the voice did not match a previous recording of the RSM spokesman. However, I find this information, even if true, to be insufficient proof that the claim of responsibility is spurious, since there is no reason for the actual Sheik Omar to expose his voice in a spoken message.

Nonetheless, there are other objections and doubts in my own mind about it

The first of these is that the original posting by ABSCBN is no longer available at the following URL:

and leads to a message that reads

The article you are requesting could not be found.

The first four paragraphs of this now apparently removed posting is preserved in my post yesterday. And most of it may be in this pickup piece from the Arab News.

In an Update posted on ABSCBN News at 5:21 am this morning
we find instead this posting (now also on the US Internet Archive for preservation).
(UPDATE) Authorities doubt authenticity of 'RSM spokesman'

Authorities on Saturday doubt the authenticity of a person who claimed to be the spokesman of the Rajah Sulayman Movement (RSM) who said the group was responsible for Friday's explosion in Makati City that left 10 people dead and scores of others injured.

In a text message to ABS-CBN sent 7:00 a.m., the person who said he was RSM spokesman Ruben Omar Lavilla, alias Sheik Omar, said his group was responsible for Friday’s blast. He later talked on the phone with ABS-CBN.

A highly placed intelligence official who listened to a record of the call said however that the recorded voice of "Sheik Omar" did not match what they have on file.

National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales had earlier said that they have already received information regarding the "RSM" claim and are already investigating.

Gonzales said there are those who may just be using name of the group but still they cannot just brush off the claim.

In the text message to ABS-CBN , the person who said he was Sheik Omar also demanded the release of RSM founder Hilarion del Rosario Santos, alias Ahmed Santos.

RSM is a terror organization whose members are allegedly composed of Christians who have converted to Islam and reportedly operates in Manila and northern Luzon. It was suspected of carrying out the Rizal Day bombing in 2000 and Valentine’s Day bombings in 2004.

The text message also said RSM had sought the help of Assistant Secretary Severo Catura assigned to the Office of the Executive Secretary but its demand had fallen on deaf ears.

Lavilla, a former professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, is considered RSM’s religious, political and strategic leader.

Based on the record of the intelligence community, Lavilla allegedly trained RSM’s recruits in the group’s hideout in Pangasinan and Tarlac province. In 2002, the military stormed RSM’s training bases in both provinces.

It was reported that before the raid, Lavilla received P10 million from Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani. The money was purportedly meant for RSM’s "operational expenses."

Since Santos’s capture in 2005, Lavilla served as the group’s spokesman.
What is very strange is that the claim of a text message is immediately contradicted by the apparent discussion of a voice call. Perhaps what was actually received was a Multimedia Mesage (MMS) that contained a voice recording. Or maybe they have decided it is just a prank or hoax. The above article claims that first a text message arrived and then someone called.

The plot thickens!

Apparently, the Trillanes Hypothesis has taken hold in some people's minds as having some possibility of being true, that is, that the Makati Mall blast may have been undertaken by "rogue AFP" elements or the President herself for self-preservation.

I am not buying this idea, though I would actually prefer its consequences to that of my own Jihadi Hypothesis.

For if the Trillanes Hypothesis is correct, it would only mean that some crazy people either in the military or the national security apparatus are marching down a road which can only lead to their own destruction, say to an "emergency rule" or "martial law scenario" that is doomed from the start, since I doubt the United States and other Philippine allies would support a regime running a country filled with insurgents, fascists and freedom-fighting bloggers.

Conversely, I fervently hope my own Jihadi Hypothesis is wrong because if it is true, the likelihood is we will sooner or later be hearing from the Bali Bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek in a message far louder than we heard in Makati last Friday. The Jihadi Hypothesis, if proven true, also means we are now engaged with Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah directly, and that they have seen and are now exploiting the weakened state of the adminstration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which is literally fighting for its political life.

The Filipino people are however, may already be fighting for something far more precious than that, and don't even know it yet!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Rajah Sulaiman Movement Owns Up To Makati Mall Terrorist Attack

(UPDATED 10/22) Please check later posts on this developing topic at Philippine Commentary. The news report on which this post was based contained statements later found by ABSCBN News to be inaccurate or misleading enough for the network itself to falsify the claim of responsibility for the Oct 19 Makati mall blast, including the identity of the claimant.

ABSCBN News is reporting that it has received a text message from the spokesman of an Islamist terror organization claiming responsibility for the deadly bomb explosion in a Makati City shopping mall yesterday which killed 9 and injured over 120.
A person who claimed to be the spokesman of the Rajah Sulayman Movement (RSM) on Saturday said the group was responsible for Friday’s attack in Makati City that left nine people dead and scores of others injured.

In a text message to ABS-CBN News, the person who said he was RSM spokesman Ruben Omar Lavilla, alias Sheik Omar, demanded the release of founder Hilarion del Rosario Santos, alias Ahmed Santos, within 24 hours or the group will launch a similar attack targeting public places and vital installations.

RSM is a terror organization whose members are allegedly composed of Christians who have converted to Islam and reportedly operates in Manila and northern Luzon. It was suspected of carrying out the Rizal bombing in 2000 and Valentine’s Day bombings in 2004.

"Jihad (holy war) against the Christians will continue if the military will not stop the killings of Muslims in Mindanao and Ahmed Santos should be released within 24 hours, otherwise, [Christians will] suffer again the consequences," he said.

In June, 2006, the U.S. Embassy and the US Rewards for Justice Program awarded US$500,000 to two informants for their assistance in the arrest of the former leader and founder of the Rajah Sulaiman Movement, Hilarion Ahmed Santos. In the text message, RSM is said to be demanding the release of this individual.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism has the authoritative background on the terrorist group which is affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf Group and was most infamously involved in the Super Ferry 14 bombing and sinking:
The RSM has assisted with the terrorist plots of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Manila and ther areas in the northern Philippines. It was involved in ASG's bombing of SuperFerry 14 in February 2004 and the February 2005 Valentine's Day bombings, according to Philippine security officials. In 2005, however, the RSM suffered several major setbacks. In March, Philippine security forces seized more than 1,300 pounds of explosives from an RSM safe house in metropolitan Manila. In October, Philippine intelligence agents arrested RSM leader Ahmad Santos in Zamboanga City and charged him with plotting to bomb high profile targets, including the U.S. Embassy in Manila. Two months later, Philippine security forces arrested another RSM leader in Zamboanga City. Philippine officials subsequently claimed that debriefings of these captives helped them thwart an alleged RSM plot to conduct attacks in Manila during the Christmas holiday season.
Philippine Commentary has followed the lethal career of this particular offshoot of the Global Jihad in several posts over the years:

The Julius Babao Affair and the Missing Terrorist
Why Gloria Denied That Super Ferry 14 Was A Terrorist Attack

Hmmm...seems very neat and convenient that the reported text message includes a clearly unlawful DEMAND by the group for the government to release the terror group's leader, a matter that National Security Adviser, Norberto Gonzales, fussed about yesterday as missing from the Makati City blast tableu, while talking to media yesterday. With this demand, if verified and confirmed, it would seem that all three elements required by the definition of a terrorist crime under the Human Security Act of 2007 now exists. This means, yesterday's bombing IS terrorist act and may be prosecuted under the Act. My own Definition of Terrorism is here. I argue that an explicit terrorist demand is not required by Republic Act 9372 for every specific component act of a terrorist organization but may be construed from the overall objectives and pattern of its activities. It bothered me yesterday that NSA Gonzales does not appreciate this aspect of the definition.

(20:00) Eid Kabbalu of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has come on television to offer their help in investigating the Makati Mall Bombing. The MILF could start by surrendering the MILF ambush killers of those 14 Marines on Basilan last July, with ten of them beheaded.

(21:00) ABSCBN News has a follow up report on efforts by national security officials to establish the veracity of the claim of responsibility for the Makati mall explosion and the identity of the former University of the Philippines professor claiming to be the spokesman of the Rajah Sulayman Movement.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Whodunit and What It Could Mean

The last major attack on Manila by the Indonesian terrorist oganization, Jemaah Islamiyah, may well be that series of five bomb explosions on Rizal Day, December 30, 2000 (nine months before 9/11) in which 22 were killed and a hundred injured. The worst of these was a bomb triggered by a cell phone on the Light Rail Transit at Blumentritt Station in downtown Manila.

I mention this incident because it too was originally blamed by lots of people then in the Opposition and in the Mass Media, on the government of President Joseph Estrada and then Philippine National Police Chief and now Senator Panfilo Ping Lacson. Recall that the Senate Impeachment Trial of Pres. Estrada was by then three weeks old and the stunning testimony of bank vice president Clarissa Ocampo just before Christmas recess that she witnessed Erap sign "Jose Velarde" on bank documents, seemed certain to topple the administration. Speculation ran wild that his main enforcer, PNP Chief Ping Lacson or other supporters of the beleaguered President were desperate to create a "diversion" from the devastating trial proceedings and mounting evidence of his corruption. Three more weeks after the Rizal Day bombings, Erap was overthrown in the Edsa Dos military backed coup d'etat carried out by Hilario Davide, Angelo Reyes and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Later on however, Indonesian JI bomber Fathur Rohman Al Ghozi and Miklos Yunos were arrested and sentenced to 17 years in jail for their role in the Rizal Day Bombings. They escaped from "maximum security" prison at Camp Aguinaldo and were subsequently killed in Mindanao.

If yesterday's Makati mall blast was terrorist attack by Jemaah Islamiyah or its local allies, it probably means that the old Moro nationalist, separatist rebellion has been subsumed into the global Jihad, since attacking Manila itself has not been one of their traditional tactics. It is certainly worrisome that the Bali Bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek, along with Zulkifli Abdhir and other top ranking JI leaders still uncaptured have been lurking around Mindanao allegedly with the help of the MILF-Abu Sayyaf Group in exchange for training in the production and deployment of improvised explosive devices, fundraising tactics (You Tube videos of the long dead Janjalani brothers), and other terrorist tactics.

Today's Makati Mall Blast at about 1:30 pm (GMT+8) in the Philippines was definitely not an accidental LPG cooking gas tank explosion as first reported. ABSCBN's regional terrorism expert Maria Ressa, noted the improbability of this being the case earlier this afternoon in her analysis of the physical characteristics of the explosion, namely its very large blast radius (at least 200 meters in the enclosed space) which affected three floor levels of the mall and destroyed or damaged many vehicles parked outside; its evident high energy from the tremendous structural damage and devastation as seen in live tv pictures today, and the absence of any reported gas fumes prior to, or after the explosion, from both survivors and investigators. Eight are confirmed dead with about 90 others injured and in two Makati City hospitals.

Police crime lab investigators also said tonight that that they have found traces of high explosives in specimen swabs taken from an eight meter wide crater (actually the collapsed section) of the floor above the basement of the Glorietta 2 shopping mall in the central business district of Metro Manila, including C-4 plastic or gel explosive material. Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon and National Capitol Region Supt. Geary Barias have placed all of Metro Manila under full Red Alert.

The speculation about who perpetrated this dastardly act has begun in earnest. But stepping beyond mere speculation were a number of highly irresponsible and/or devious personalities. The detained Oakwood mutiny leader Antonio Trillanes immediately accused President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales of carrying out the bombing in order to divert attention from several swirling bribery and corruption controversies that threaten to sweep Mrs. Arroyo from power by impeachment or worse.

Prof. Roland Simbulan an avid admirer of Che Guevara and sympathizer of the CPP-NPA meanwhile appeared on ANC's Crossroads program in order to spout out the Party line that a small group of professional operators and extra-judicial killers "might" have been responsible. A nice old lady from the Social Welfare Department smilingly averred that Simbulan's assertions were "absurd and ridiculous." I agree.

Then there is Alberto Lim of the Makati Business Club who claimed on television that it was either the Palace who did this or the Opposition, though I think his main expertise is on the likely ill effects of the Makati blast on his stock portfolio.

For many people who won't go as far as Trillanes and Simbulan in these incredible accusations, but who genuinely wish that President Arroyo would either resign or be impeached and removed, I guess it is but natural to:

(1) suspect that it is the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo trying to create a diversion from the deep doo doo she is in from the ZTE scandal and the massive bribery at the Palace last week; and,

(2) be reluctant to consider the possibility that Jemaah Islamiyah and its local allies have indeed carried out the most devastating attack yet on what Maria Ressa (author of the Seeds of Terror) calls JI's "Holy Grail" -- Manila.

Speaking with Ricky Carandang and Pia Hontiveros during yesterday's live coverage of the Makati mall blast, and assessing video of the blast area, Maria Ressa concluded that whoever did it were "highly trained" in deploying a bomb or explosive of this nature.

She says there are only "two umbrella groups" in the Philippines capable of this type of operation: Jemaah Islamiyah or the Philippine Military.

I for one cannot even imagine the possibility of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordering such a thing, much less some rogue supporters who would act without her knowledge. She may be corrupt as events have proven, and craven enough to try to hold onto power by almost any means. But I just don't believe she, or any of her people would be ruthless enough to do this. If anything she would rather run away than fight, as shown in the Angelo dela Cruz incident in Iraq, and in her pusillanimous handling of the Mindanao situation, both of which were actually determined by the civil society uproar against showing any kind of spine against the terrorists.

For the Opposition, like Trillanes and Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel and Senator Jamby Madrigal, (who were also responsible for the Terrorists Bill of Rights called the Human Security Act) it is of course a most inconvenient development which may divert attention from them and the campaign to unseat the President, which up until yesterday looked like it was really going into high gear as even Bishops have called for GMA's resignation. Most of the leftist militant organizations and almost all of the local blogosphere which is also composed of leftists and communist sympathizers or "liberals" as they like to call themselves, are also sorely disappointed that their best laid plans may now have to be put on hold--which is why they are working up a mighty froth to pin the blame on the Makati explosion on the Palace.

But just like Rizal Day 2000, if I were the JI-ASG-MILF jihadists, this is the perfect time and situation to strike, just when the country is most divided and the democratic system itself looks set to topple President Arroyo. The misdirection game is already afoot, as the most voluble are already blaming the Palace for the blast as a diversionary tactic, while the rest of the people won't dare breathe the word: "TERRORISTS!" and would await further facts to emerge before facing the plausible reality.

That reality is that the old Moro nationalist rebellions is no more, for it has been coopted and absorbed into the greater global Jihad of Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. If they can't get Bangsmorostan handed to them on a silver platter by President Arroyo with the help of that Indigenous Peoples Wrongs Act, then they will carve it out of our flesh, one cell at a time if necessary.

I actually hope this is all wrong and that when the sun rises in a few hours, the police will say it was a defective LPG gas tank that blew up in the Luk Yuen Restaurant near where the blast occurred.

Counter Terrorism Blog posts on this and the pressure cooker in Pakistan.

BREAKING NEWS "Bomb Blast" Rocks Philippine Mall in Makati -8 Dead and Counting

Three (update: four) persons have been killed by a bomb blast at the Glorietta 2 Mall in Makati City, Philippines. An undetermined number of persons have been injured although ABSCBN News reports nine in hospital. The explosion occurred in or near a restaurant. Live television pictures are showing extensive damage, with debris and cars damaged, including a walkway. Police are said to be looking for other possible explosive devices. The cause of the blast has not been determined but police have ruled out a theorized gas leak, but Makati City councilor Jonjon Binay says it is too early to conclude the real cause just yet.

UPDATES (14:42 pm) : Makati Medical Center reports four dead and 45 injured.

(14:45) Explosion blew out part of the roof and has left a crater estimated to be 8 meters wide.

(15:00) No conclusion has been reached as to the cause of this explosion which occurred at at :25 pm. Conflicting reports are coming in.

(15:30) National Police Chief Avelino Razon, through NCRPO Deputy Dir. Jerry Barias, has just declared RED ALERT throughout Metro Manila. A media center has been set up and he has promised updates every thirty minutes. A fifth death has just been reported.

(16:00) Police have not determined the cause of the blast. The death toll has climbed to six and over 50 are reportedly being treated at Makati Medical Center, some seriously. Supt. Samuel Pagdilao has just expressed his concern about the possibility that this is the feared post-Ramadan offensive of the Jemaah Islamiyah -backed Abu Sayyaf after regular intelligence reports of Islamist threats. It is known that the MILF has been hiding Bali Bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek in Mindanao. Ayala officials have promised an update by 4:30.

(16:15) DZMM AM radio reports that military officials meeting in Camp Aguinaldo believe C-4 plastic explosive was involved because of the wide extent of the damage.

(16:30) The death toll has risen to eight dead, and 80 are reported injured from counts at Makati Medical Center and Ospital ng Maynila.

(17:00) People like Sen. Nene Pimentel and Jamby Madgrigal really need to shut their big fat mouths at a time like this and refrain from issuing self-serving and hypocritical statements--after all these years that they have been fighting against the promulgation and implementation of the Human Security Act (Anti-Terrorism Law.)

(18:00) National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales says that the government is not planning to use the Human Security Act because of the many infirmities in it, that it would not be effective anyway. Well that's right. The HSA is really a TERRORIST RIGHTS ACT, thanks to nuts like Aquilino Pimentel and Jamby Madrigal who put those infirmities in the act.

(18:15) Maria Ressa, ABSCBN's terrorism expert, talking to Tony Velasquez and Pia Hontiveros notes that the blast radius of the explosion is huge compared to previous attacks like the Jemaah Islamiyah attack on December 30, 2000 (Rizal Day) on the LRT or even the SuperFerry 14 bombing. She mentions the presence in the Philippines of Dulmatin and Umar Patek, responsible for the Bali Bombings, and Zulkifli Abdhir, who have been busy training jihadists for just this very sort of thing. Maria Ressa believes that this successful attack, if found to be Jemaah Islamiyah's doing, represents their attainment of a long desired "Holy Grail" to attack Manila. And to think, we had Mrs. Dulmatin and that nihilist's progeny in custody earlier this year, but for lack of a suitable law, the government actually paid for their plane fare back into the arms of their terrorist pater.

(19:00) SENATOR ANTONIO TRILLANES is a complete and utter idiot for declaring that the blast in Makati today was the work of the President or her allies. I hope he ROTS in jail now and never gets to dark the Senate's door. He's off the blogroll--first time I've ever removed anyone for reasons of total disgust.

(20:00) President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has issued the following statement on the blast:
My Dear Countrymen,

At around 1:30 this afternoon the Makati area was rocked by a powerful explosion which so far resulted in 8 killed and at least 70 persons wounded. Initial investigations indicate that the explosion could not have been caused by a LPG accident as earlier reported. Circumstances indicate it is highly probable that it was caused by an explosive device.

We assure everyone that a full blown investigation is now underway. The Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are on highest alert and are fielding an additional 2000 personnel to secure our public places and to prevent a possible similar occurrence.

I warn those who seek to exploit this incident to destabilize our government for their selfish political motives.

Meanwhile, we urge all sectors to remain vigilant as the government steps up security measures to protect our people.

I am deeply saddened by this unfortunate incident and I extend my sincerest sympathies to the families of those were killed and wounded. The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the National Disaster and Coordinating Council are in close touch with the victims in order to provide them the necessary assistance.

During these trying times we call on the people to pray for peace and unity.
No matter what our opinions of her may be, I believe it is our duty as citizens to support the President and Commander in Chief in this dark hour that is increasingly beginning to look like a terrorist attack. I agree with her that this is a time for all of us to unite behind the authorities for the sake of the national security.

(2100) Professor Roland Simbulan was introduced on Tony Velasquez's Crossroads program on ANC as "security expert" whereupon he delivered the usual communist line about state terrorism and how the Makati Mall blast today might have been done by a small dirty tricks operation under the control of the President in order to divert attention from the political controversies hounding the Arroyo administration. But if I remember right, he was also one of those who, in December 2000, blamed Erap and Ping for the Rizal Day Bombings which killed 22 and hurt over a hundred Filipinos. Recall that just a week before, Joseph Estrada was hit hard in the Senate impeachment trial by the testimony of Clarissa Ocampo and may be considered to have been in the same kind of dangerous trouble as President Arroyo is today. Later, the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists Fathur Rohman al Ghozi and Miklos Yunos were arrested for and sentenced to long jail terms for that terrorist attack -- but only three years after Erap was removed in a coup d'etat called Edsa Dos. The timing of that Jemaah Islamiyah attack is precisely the same as this one! Oh, by the way, read this adoring article from security expert Rolando Simbulan extolling his idol: Che Guevara!

The CPP NPA and its leftist allies like Simbulan have always supported the Muslim rebel movement. But here they may be helping out the Al Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah. International terrorists of a feather flock together. Security expert my foot!