Suspect in Palawan blasts nabbed

David Yu Santos
Police trace suspect through his mobile phone

Map of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Courtesy of Google

MANILA, Philippines – Police authorities in Palawan arrested on Sunday, April 8, a native Tausug who was attending a meeting with Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, for his alleged involvement in the series of explosions that rocked the island provinces in a span of more than 2 weeks.

“I was surprised when our police units alerted me that the mobile phone of one of the bombing suspects has been traced to the meeting I was holding,” Hagedorn told Rappler by phone.

Hagedorn said he was meeting in a restaurant Sunday afternoon with members of the Palawan Islamic Association when the police came and questioned a certain Hiya Hassan, who was among those present in the assembly.

The group, whose leaders “are mostly Tausug migrants from Mindanao,” was seeking his assistance for a possible housing project in their community in Barangay Bagong Silang.

Hassan, said to be a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), initially denied owning the mobile unit bearing the phone number that the authorities have been monitoring as a possible lead to the suspects behind the simultaneous explosions that occurred in Puerto Princesa City and El Nido town last April 5, as well as the March 20 blast near the famous Underground River.

But Hassan could not completely deny the number since he wrote it in a registration form that he signed before the meeting.

“The number of the phone in Hassan’s possession was traced because it was the source of the scare text messages being sent to local bus companies,” Hagedorn said,

Hassan later tried to explain that the phone originally belonged to his daughter and was allegedly stolen, according to Hagedorn. “But when asked how it got into his hands, Hassan simply said it was returned to him, which was highly suspicious.”

‘Purely politics’

Hassan, who reportedly claimed to be a casual employee of a local politician identified with the camp of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, was put under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) where he is undergoing further questioning.

The military’s Western Command (Wescom) earlier dowplayed reports linking the Abu Sayyaf Group to the Palawan exploions.

Hagedorn said that based on the reports he got from the police who investigated the recent explosions, the incidents were either the handiwork of “people who underwent military training or a military man himself.”

“When you look closely into the types of the explosives used and how it was executed, I doubt whether it was initiated by ordinary civilians,” said Hagedorn.

“There will be a connection (to the military) one way or the other,” Hagedorn pointed out. “And it is not even related to terrorism, but purely politics.”

Rappler tried to get the reaction of Wescom through its information officer Maj Neil Anthony Estrella but he has yet to respond to our requests as of posting time. – Rappler.com