GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – The Police Regional Office 12 has created a special task force that will spearhead the investigation of the explosion of an improvised bomb near the main city hall building here on Tuesday night.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Thursday the task force will mainly focus on the determination of the motive and possible suspects in the incident, which happened three days after the culmination of the city’s 16th Tuna Festival.
The blast occurred past 7 p.m. Tuesday near the monument of national hero Jose P. Rizal at the Plaza Heneral Santos, which is just a few meters away from the main entrance of the city hall building.
Camba said he designated city police director, Senior Supt. Froilan Quidilla, to lead the special investigation task group, which will involve various local police units and the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan.
“This is to fast track the investigation of the case, especially in the determination of the exact motive as well as the identification of the suspects and filing of appropriate charges against them,” he told reporters.
As of Thursday morning, the PRO-12 has yet to release its official findings regarding the type of explosive that was used in the attack but the Army’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit declared that it was an improvised bomb.
An official statement issued by the City Police Office, Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan and the city government late Tuesday initially declared that the explosion was possibly caused by a grenade supposedly due to the absence of shrapnel or fragments at the site.
But EOD and scene of the crime operatives found suspected bomb fragments after conducting another sweep of the blast site on Wednesday morning.
Camba said the task force’s investigation will take off from the results of the post-blast investigation and accounts from several witnesses.
On Wednesday, he said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group conducted a re-enactment of the incident with the help of several witnesses.
The police official said their investigators have initially come up with a computerized composite sketch of a person who was believed to have planted the explosive.
“We’re now checking if the explosive has signatures of certain groups. From that, we will try to establish the identities of those involved, whether they are ordinary criminals or extortionists, and their motives,” he said.
Camba clarified that prior to the incident, local intelligence units have not received any report or threat regarding a terror attack in the city.
But he confirmed that a number of businessmen in the city have been receiving extortion demands by way of a letter from an undisclosed group.
Among those who reportedly received the extortion demands, which ranged from P50,000 and above per month, were several construction firms, a fishing operator and a resort owner.
“We confirm these extortion activities and we’re looking at them as among the possible motives of the attack,” he said.
Meantime, the office of City Mayor Ronnel Rivera disclosed in a statement three of those injured in the blast are still confined at a private hospital here.
Initial reports placed the injured victims at nine but it said only eight were so far confirmed by local government personnel.
Rivera earlier said the city government will shoulder all the hospitalization expenses and other related needs of the victims.