From the Philippine Star (Dec 12): 'Extortion group, not BIFF, behind Bukidnon bus bombing
Security officials are convinced a big extortion ring, not the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is behind Tuesday’s deadly bus bombing in Maramag, Bukidnon.
Ten passengers were killed and 20 more were injured in the explosion.
There are big extortion gangs in Central Mindanao, among them the Al-Khobar, preying on transportation companies and commercial establishments in the region.
The Al-Khobar had been implicated in more than 20 bus bombings in the adjoining Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces between 2003 and 2013.
Key members of the Region 12 peace and order council said the police should investigate deeper on Tuesday’s bombing of a unit of the Rural Transit Mindanao, Inc. (RTMI) in Maramag.
“If we immediately point an accusing finger to the BIFF we could possibly end up allowing the real culprits to go scot-free,” one of the sources said.
Another source, who also requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that while the BIFF has hundreds of members, it has limited capability to operate in Bukidnon, which is a predominantly Christian area.
“Even before the BIFF emerged in 2010, the Al-Khobar was already operating with impunity in many areas in Central Mindanao and some of its members charged with criminal offenses in connection with the group’s activity are Visayans,” said a local official.
The spokesman of BIFF, Abu Misry Mama, on Friday denied insinuations that they were behind the bombing.
“Most of our men are facing various cases in different courts, mostly trumped up charges, so how can they go out of the towns where we operate? We have become the convenient `whipping boy’ for all atrocities that we didn’t get involved with,” Misry said in Maguindanao dialect.
Authorities in Bukidnon and Davao City announced on Thursday that a BIFF leader named Garnet Lintang and a certain Dawtin Gendang had been charged in connection with the bus bombing, the MRTI’s second since last month.
Four passengers of an MRTI bus were slightly injured in a previous attack, also in Maramag town, the gateway to Bukidnon.
The bus company serves the Tacurong City-Maguindanao-North Cotabato-Bukidnon-Cagayan de Oro route.
Local officials in Bukidnon believe extortionists were responsible for the bombings of the two MRTI buses.
Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri said local officials had reached a consensus, during an emergency meeting with the military and police Wednesday, that extortionists could be responsible for the attacks.
“We are one to believe that it was extortion,” Zubiri said.
The governor said they had discussed all the angles of the latest bombing incident during the emergency security meeting.
The group was trained by Mindanews on how to develop and administer the Bangsamoroonline.com, the official website of the BTC. The website is the mouthpiece of the commission where its activities and other undertakings are posted on line.
The BTC CommGroup members have different field of specializations but perform the same functions as ‘peace advocates’ and disseminator of information to the broad masses. The training has become an avenue for members in developing their skills and expertise in web administration and proper use of social media for effective public information dissemination
The training was funded by the government of Canada.