A year later, justice still eludes CDO blast victims

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/26 July) – One year after a bomb ripped through an upscale restaurant just outside the Lim Ket Kai Mall, no suspect has been arrested for the incident that killed eight persons and injured 46 others.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma who led an interfaith prayer rally on the steps of the mall Saturday morning, said there can be no closure for the families “unless the suspects are brought to justice”.

“Where has the investigation proceeded? When can the victims get justice,” demanded Robert de la Serna, an employee of Xavier University who survived the bombing at Kyla’s Bistro on July 26 last year.

Only a small crowd came to the prayer rally at the Lim Ket Kai Mall this morning to mark the first anniversary of the bombing incident that has traumatized this city.

Days after the incident, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges against six suspects including a woman who left the bomb on a chair at Kylas’s Bistro.

The CIDG was only able to identify one of the suspects, Usman Hapids alias Mam-man. The Regional Prosecutor’s Office later issued arrest warrants against Hapids and the other suspects.

MGen Ricardo Visaya, commanding general of the Army 4th Infantry Division later identified the group as members of the Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao, a shadowy group linked to to Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The Philippine Army raided the group’s training camp in Lumbatan, Lanao del Sur in November last year but found the suspects already gone.

“We also raided several of their safe houses in Lanao del Sur but they were already gone. We believed they have transferred their operations in Central Mindanao or Maguindanao province,” said Col. Glen Macasero, chief of the Army 103rd Infantry Brigade.

In cooperation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Macasero also led army teams in inspecting the camps of MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar or Kumander Bravo in Balindong, Lanao del Sur.

Bravo assured Macasero and the government he would never allow any terror groups to hide in his camps.

With none of its members arrested, the Khalifa Islamiyah Mindanao is considered the top terror threat in the island.

Last month, President Aquino, acting on an intelligence tip, alerted mayors of the key Mindanao cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos and Koronadal of terrorist attacks.

The Cagayan de Oro Police Office has only two “poor” video images from a CCTV camera at the Candy’s Restaurant of one of the suspects walking around and of the actual blast.

In the post-blast investigation report by the city police a copy of which was obtained by MindaNews, investigators found evidence that the bomb was triggered by a mobile phone, not a radio transceiver as earlier announced to the media last year.

The report said the explosive used was an 81mm mortar shell, a type of ammunition commonly used by the Philippine military and rebels.

Prof. Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism said leaders of the Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao including Reneer Lou Donggong alias Rolly Unting have set up major links with the BIFF in Maguindanao. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)