Blast suspect turned witness recants statement

Senior Supt. Robert Kiunisala, South Cotabato police director, said they now consider Alex Magbanua, a former janitor of the bus company, as the main suspect in the attack after he retracted his second extra-judicial confession that tagged YBL employees union leaders Jimmy Rosios, Jessie Rivas and Ibrahim Bacal as his alleged conspirators.

"It's now back to Magbanua. We will pursue the case against him as primary suspect since he's now the only one remaining," he told MindaNews in a telephone interview this morning.

Magbanua, who is currently detained at the South Cotabato provincial jail, was earlier identified by the wife of the lone fatality in the August 3 bombing at the YBL bus terminal as the one who left at the crime scene a bag that contained the bomb.

A Protestant pastor identified as Willy Boy Caritan of the Christian and Missionary Alliance Churches of the Philippines, was killed while 11 others were injured in the bomb attack, which was immediately claimed by the extortion group Al-Khobar.

Kiunisala said Magbanua, who was arrested by the local police several days after the attack, admitted that the attack was related to the labor dispute between the company and the employees union.                  

He said the suspect tagged the three other YBL employees as conspirators in the attack in his second extra-judicial confession "made in front of a lawyer" on August 10 last year.

Based on Magbanua's confession, the police filed a complaint before the city prosecutor’s office on August 13, 2007 against Rosios, Magbanua, Bacal and Rivas for violation of Republic act 9372 or the Human Security Act of 2007 for alleged acts of terrorism.

But the official said that the suspect, in his retraction submitted to the office of the city prosecutor, claimed that he did not clearly understand the proceedings when he made the extra-judicial confession since the questions were "in English."

He said "a motion to withdraw the amended information" has already been filed before the city prosecution office in connection with Magbanua's recantation.

"I really don't know what's in his mind right now. For us, we've done our jobs and we will proceed with his prosecution as suspect," he said.

Initially, Kiunisala said the three suspects earlier implicated by Magbanua are now considered "cleared."

He said they cannot pursue a case against the three YBL employees since they no longer have a witness against them.

Kiunisala clarified that the three YBL employees had never been arrested since no warrants of arrest were issued against them.

Rivas, a union spokesperson, is still employed with the company but Bacal has already retired.

The whereabouts of Rosios, a company mechanic and a member of the YBL union's board of trustees, has remained unknown after he was kidnapped on August 11 last year by unidentified armed men in front of the YBL garage in Koronadal City.

Rosios was also the chairperson of the union's panel which negotiates with the management for the Collective Bargaining Agreement. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)