Foiled bomb plot: Philippines arrests another man

Foiled bomb plot: Philippines arrests another man
A Philippine police bomb disposal unit member inspects an abondoned luggage at the departure area of the terminal three of the airport in Manila on September 1, 2014.

Philippine security officials have arrested a fringe politician over his suspected involvement in a failed attempt to bomb the country's main airport and three other China-related targets in Manila.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) nabbed Elly Pamatong, who has admitted to fanning anti-Chinese sentiments among his followers, at Terminal 2 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after he arrived in Manila from Cagayan de Oro province yesterday.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the authorities are investigating the possibility of his involvement in the failed bombings.

NBI chief Virgilio Mendoza said Pamatong was also wanted for malicious mischief over an incident in 2004 when his supporters lined Manila's roads with metal spikes that blew the tires of at least 168 vehicles after he was declared a nuisance candidate in that year's presidential election.

In an interview before his arrest, Pamatong had told The Straits Times that he fanned anti-Chinese sentiments among his followers but denied having a hand in Monday's plot.

"To a certain extent, I am responsible," the self-styled "commander in chief" of the United States Allied Freedom Fighters of the East said.

"All actions against China, I authorised and encouraged those because the Armed Forces of the Philippines have failed to obey the mandate under the Constitution to protect and preserve the Philippine territory, to protect the people," he said.

Pamatong said that Pepito Guerrero, one of the three anti- Chinese fanatics who were arrested on Monday morning over the foiled plot to bomb NAIA, had been working with him for the past 12 years.

Guerrero was caught with Emmanuel San Pedro and Sonny Yohanon at 1.45am on Monday as they were about to plant what investigators said was an "improvised incendiary device" in one of the toilets at the airport.

The trio were also planning to plant three bombs at the SM Mall of Asia owned by ethnic Chinese tycoon Henry Sy, and to strafe the Chinese Embassy and the head office of property firm DMCI, which is owned by Mr David Consunji, also an ethnic Chinese.

Investigators said this "misguided group" was frustrated over the country's supposedly soft approach in dealing with China over the South China Sea incidents.

The Philippines said it has taken "appropriate and necessary" steps to protect China's embassy in Manila from attacks by right-wing fringe groups.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said it reassured staff at the Chinese mission yesterday that "appropriate and necessary protection is in place to guard against threats and prevent any violent incidents".

rdancel@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Sept 4 in The Straits Times.

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