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Cotabato City deadly car bomb 'unusual,' says ARMM governor

The explosion that killed eight people and injured 30 others on Monday was the first of its kind in Cotabato City, according to Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"May mga pagsabog noong mga nakaraan, pero hindi car bomb. Heto lang yung first time na multicab mismo 'yung ginamit dito sa pagsabog," Hataman said in an interview on "News to Go" on Monday.

According to Hataman, previous explosions in the area were caused by bombs left in motorcycles or wrapped in plastic, unlike in the Middle East where car bombs are common.

Possible angles

Hataman said it was too early to say who the target might be for Monday's blast.

In an earlier report, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said investigators were looking at various possible motives, including rivalry among local politicians.

The blast, which occurred on main highway Sinsuat Street, happened just when Cotabato City administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi was passing through the area in a bulletproof car which is used by both Guiani-Sayadi and her brother, Cotabato City's re-electionist mayor, Japal Guiani, Jr.

Both the mayor and city administrator received death threats two weeks ago, GMA News stringer Ferdinandh Cabrera reported on News to Go on Tuesday.

Hataman said he would find out if reports of the death threats were filed with the police.

"Sinasabi nila ngayon, si Cynthia, sinasabi niya posible siya. Pero that is possibility. Ang daming puwedeng possibility," said Hataman, noting that the Cotabato blast was the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days.

On July 26, an explosion in Cagayan de Oro killed eight people and injured at least 40 others.

"Even before yung incident ng Cagayan, meron na rin kaming mga intelligence report na natatanggap kasi nagkaroon ng intel report na merong possibility na mangyari, pero walang specific area," Hataman said, referring to a global security alert issued by Interpol prompted by al Qaeda communications intercepted by US intelligence about new plans for terrorist attacks.

"Ito yung mga possibilities na puwedeng titingnan, at the same time merong ongoing clashes at naghahabulan, nagtutugisan ang ating sandatahang lakas at Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)," Hataman said.

He added that investigators would be able to release the results of their probe today.

Tight security

Meanwhile, Cotabato photographer Mark Navales said security was extremely tight at the crime scene.

"Nakasara, wala talagang pinapadaan hanggang ngayon," Navales said on Tuesday.

"Kasama yung marines, SAF PNP, at SOCO (scene of the crime operatives) team," he said, adding that the investigators were thoroughly examining the crime scene.

Navales said the entire area was cordoned off, including parts from the corner of the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) to the ORG Compound.

In the investigation of the Cagayan de Oro blast on July 26, the scene of the crime was cleaned even before a reenactment of the incident.

The police had allowed the owners of affected bars in Limketkai shopping complex to clean the blast site
just hours after the explosion, angering Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

NAPOLCOM policy on crime investigation

Although there are no guidelines as to how long a crime scene should be cordoned off, this should be done only after all evidence is secured and the documentation process is completed.

The National Police Commission's standard operating procedure ODIDM-2011-008 (Conduct of Crime Scene Investigation) only states that the investigator shall decide on the lifting of the security cordon and the release of the crime scene upon consultation with the SOCO Team Leader.

It also states that the investigator shall be responsible for ensuring that all potential evidence has been collected by the SOCO Team as any re-entry into the crime scene after its release to the owner will require a search warrant issued by the Court.

Previous blasts

On July 29, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off inside the University of Southern Mindanao Campus in North Cotabato.

In August 2012, an IED fashioned from an 81-mm mortar went off at the North Cotabato-Maguindanao border, only seven hours after another IED was recovered near the national road in Poblacion, Midsayap in North Cotabato.

In August 2011, an IED went off along Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City, killing two and wounding at least nine others. The IEF was placed on a motorcycle that was parked outside a pharmacy store.

Also in 2011, bomb experts successfully detonated an IED left at a Cotabato City inn.

In the same year, the police arrested suspected terrorist Ricardo Ayeras, who was wanted for the 2003 bombing of a car outside the Awang Airport in Cotabato City. Ayeras was associated with the al Qaeda terrorist network, according to an International Police-United Nations Security Council Special Notice.

In 2010, an IED went off inside a bus in Dalapitan, North Cotabato, killing 10 and wounding 30 others.

Also in 2010, a child discovered an IED connected to a Nokia 3310 mobile phone inside a plastic bag.

In 2009, army troops detonated an IED made from ammo of a rocket propelled grenade. The device was found near the National Transmission Commission (Transco) steel tower in Sitio Dungu-an in Barangay Ugalingan.

Also in 2009, an IED went off at a lechon (roasted pig) house in front of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral along Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City, killing five and hurting 29 others.

The attack had the signs of a test-bombing mission Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s Special Operations Group (SOG), according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
- VVP, GMA News