Sunday, October 21, 2007

Dark Friday: Glorietta 2 Bombing

(A human face of the tragedy: Jeanne de Gracia, among the 11 dead of the G2 bombing last Friday. Lest we forget. )

“But soon we shall die and all memory of those five will have left the earth, and we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Tony Blair, speaking at the memorial service for the victims of the 9/11 tragedy, quoted a passage from “The Bridge of San Luis Rey.”

Last Friday, 19 October 2007, a portion of Glorietta 2 was unceremoniously bombed leaving at present 11 dead and 110 others wounded or injured. I was at the office when I first heard about the news, just minutes after the bombing occured. At first, sketchy reports of a possible LPG explosion from a groundfloor G2 Luk Yuen Restaurant was said to have caused the blast. I felt no sense of alarm at this point. Some 20-30 minutes later, intial photos from the blast were already blogged online. At this point, it became clearer that this was not an ordinary accident. 8 people were immediately reported as dead and 40 others as injured. The photos of the bombing showed extensive damage of properties. Cars were upturned, windows and glasses shattered and rubbles were everywhere. Clearly, Glorietta 2 was intentionally bombed.

I pass by this shopping complex on a daily basis. I take the passenger FX taxi on the lower ground level of the MRT Ayala line. For Php 30 per ride, this FX taxi will take me directly a block away from parent's house in Villamor. Incidentally, this same MRT line was bombed two years ago in what is now tagged as Valentine's Day Bombing as it happened exactly on the day of hearts. This terrorist act was actually a three simultaneous bombing attacks that occured on three separate citiies of Manila, Davao and Gen. Santos. The Al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf ragtag group claimed responsibility for the attack that was said to be their "Valentine's gift to President Gloria Arroyo." Ironically, about the same number of people were among the casualties in this tripartite bombing attacks. 11 people were killed and about 90 others wounded when separate buses in Manila and Davao exploded coupled by the shopping mall blast in Gen. Santos. Prior to this, one more notable bombing incident that will be forever etched in memory is the Rizal Day Bombing which occured on a national holiday, the 30th of December 2000 or more populary known as Jose Rizal's death anniversary. On that fateful day, 22 lives were lost, around 100 wounded in a five-fold attack in various locations in Metro Manila, the most deadly of which is the LRT bombing that took place at the Blumentritt station.

I will never forget this incident simply because I used the LRT back then on an almost daily basis as well. It was the easiest, fastest and cheapest route for me as college (UST) student. I only had to suffer the indignity of being squished and cramped in the train cab for about half an hour but at least it will save me from two hours of traffic in terms of travel time as opposed to the traditional jeepney ride. I had a good deal. Unfortunately, 3 million others thought of the same idea so I had to ride with almost the same number of people daily. The mental picture that would come to mind is that of a fish trapped in a can of sardines. Stuck as if almost glued to somebody else's body, I no longer cared which body part touches another sensitive body part of mine. All I wanted was a (fucking) ride home. This was the same thought that crossed the mind of the teeming masses who rode the LRT train that unfortunate day. All they wanted was a bleeping ride home. A ride home that never got them home (unless home in this case is meant as heavenly home.) I could easily have been on that tragic train ride with them.

I remember crying on that day as I cannot forget the innocent boy whose body was badly burned as a direct result of the bombing. He became the face of the nameless and faceless other victims of that gruesome act. He was visited by then President Joseph Estrada and was given and promised all sorts of help to mitigate the effect of his young life's tragedy. I also remember being angry at Estrada simply because he was the president. I held him accountable for what happened and ironically enough, like the current state of PGMA, was in deep political crisis at that time. I deeply wonder if there is any link between these two seemingly random events. It must be recalled that previous administration, namely that of deposed dictator Marcos' regime, was credited for being personally responsible for dubious communist attacks in the metropolis before carrying out the dreaded Martial Law decree. It was done in the past and so it is not completely beyond logic to think and hypothesize that it could be done again. If truth be told, PGMA stands much to gain with this recent bombing as the country's attention is diverted from the on-going political crisis. Just before this atrocious incident, the bribe-giving aka gift-sharing debacle that happened right inside the supposedly majestic halls of Malacanan Palace was hugging the newspapers spotlight.

Justly or unjustly so, many Filipinos believe that PGMA has something to do with this G2 bombing incident. Oppositionist Senator and one time coup d e tat plotter, former Naval Lt. Sg. Antonio Trillanes IV was quick to point an accusing finger at National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon as the perpetrators of the crime. The accused two were equally quick to react by calling for an investigation of Trillanes over his allegations. Incidentally, despite being duly elected as Senator of this land by a mandate of more than 11 million untampered votes, Trillanes at this point is still languishing in jail for his political crime of dethroning an (illegal) president. They call to investigate Trillanes when he is clearly beyond the bounds of possible suspects, what with him being already in jail, and as such waste their efforts on finding out who the real perpetrators are. A certain Sheik Omar of the Rajah Solaiman Revolutionary Movement had promptly claimed responsibility over the attack but security analysts were fast to dismiss such claims as they questioned the authenticity of the voice of Omar during the on-air radio interview as well as the capacity of the said group to launch an attack.

Personally, the timing of the attack is highly suspect. The aim is clearly is not to create a catastrophic number of casualty but to plainly and coldly send a message. The attack occured at around 2 pm, way beyond the usual lunchtime of workers in the Makati area. If the perpertrators simple plan is to wreak havoc as big as possible, they could have planted the bomb at around 5 or 6pm, which is the peak time for passersby and mallgoers in Glorietta. Instead of just having 11 people dead, they could easily have more than 100 dead if acted upon a this precise time. Take the Bali Bombing that occured in Indonesia on 12 Oct 2002 for example. This bombing incident instantly killed more than 200 people, most of whom are foreigners and injured the same number of people. In this case, the motive was plain and simple, and that is to kill as many as possible. And so the suicide bombers acted out their plan at the most opportune time and at the best possible location for maximum impact and damage. It doesn't take intensive logistical intelligence to know that G2 or the entire of Glorietta mall is jampacked around after office hours. However, either by a stroke of pure luck or cunning evil genius, they opted to plant the bomb at the time when it had the least possible impact, at an hour way past lunchtime. One really good question now is this, "Why choose this dead hour to plan a bombing attack if your motive is only to kill as many as possible?"

Currently, the possible theory being raised by police officials is that the blast was purely an accident, saying there is a "high level of certainty" that the explosion was caused "by the presence of certain structures underground." Accordingly, toxic combination of methane gases located in the underground level of G2 accidentally leaked and caused the massive explosion. I am not buying this. UP Chemical Engineering experts are not buying it either and thus cautioned the police for laying out such unfounded theories that might beffudle the public. If I were to believe this version of events, then I might as well say that George W. Bush waged a war against Iraq because of their hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The amount of rubbish that our officials would want us take as gospel truth is unbelievable. Having worked for the military institution before, I very well know that it is within their means to twist the truth for the sake of "national security." Not everybody deserves to know the truth, especially if it will only cause national pandemonium. So they most probably conclude that it is for country's best interest for the masses to continually litter our superfluous malls for its apparent economic benefit. Better to tell the public a softer version of the events than to admit and subseqently explain a bombing attack that was successfully launched right under their noses.
The bombing of Super Ferry 14 last February 27, 2004 is a clear example of such a deception. It is now officially dubbed as the "the Philippines' worst terrorist attack and the world's deadliest terrorist attack at sea", killing 63 people instantly with 53 others missing and presumed dead. Initially, the deadly explosion was passed off as an accident caused by a faulty gas leak. However, 8 months later, PGMA admitted on October 11, 2004 that the bombing was indeed a terrorist attack. But by then, the Super Ferry bombing attack hardly made any impact on public consciousness. The time they acknowledged it wasn't the case, the public already forgot what the news was even all about. So it wasn't difficult for them to make excuses as to how such an attack was not prevented by "intelligence information." When they revealed the attack as a glaring breach of national security, the public simply no longer cared. Is this a brilliant coincidence, a mere happenstance that conveniently saved our security officials from public condemnation over their faulty intelligence gathering and information? I don't think so.

Everytime confronted by a unexpected tragedy flat on the face, I am always reminded of how fleeting life truly is. You can never really know when your "end" will be. You can just be strolling by the mall idly passing away your time and for all you know it would be the last minutes of your life. Such is what happened to the victims of the G2 bombing incident. Sadly, the metropolis is no longer a safe place to live in. The bombing incidents that happened in the last five years or so could have easily taken away my life just like that. I would have been robbed of my life, of my youth and of every potentiality I could ever become with hardly a blink of an eye. I must always remember this---to savor every breath I take, to enjoy every moment I make and to live my life the fullest possible way I can.

1 comment:

J said...

The bombing angle of this incident was not proven. Findings by local and foreign forensic experts failed to come up with explosives traces which should be evident given the magnitude of the explosion. I agree it was just an unfortunate industrial accident, likely caused by the confluence of gases trapped inside the basement and ignited by some electrical equipment.