Manila – For a country which has seen more devastating bomb attacks in recent years, three small bomb explosions in Metro Manila on Dec 7 could be considered as relatively "minor incidents". Still, the 115,000-strong Philippine National Police were immediately placed on full alert on Wednesday night following the attacks. And once again, the government and its opponents are blaming each other for the bombings.
According to Mr Vidal Querol, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, the bombs, which used black powder, were meant to "sow tension and fear rather than to maim or kill". Black powder is the same material used in making firecrackers and is commercially available. The minor bombings could be the handiwork of a group out "to destabilise the government", he added.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) blamed the communist New People's Army (NPA) for the attacks. "Initially, our finding with the police is that these (attacks) were actually done by some … NPA terrorists," AFP chief General Generoso Senga said.
The National Bureau of Investigation, on the other hand, announced efforts to trace the origin of the e-mails sent by the group "Enlightened Warriors", which had claimed responsibility for the bombings and another attack, the strafing of the Lourdes Tuason-Arroyo (LTA) building owned by the family of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
The "Warriors" claim to be soldiers who are "against the illegitimate and corrupt administration of Gloria Arroyo".
The NPA has dismissed claims that they were behind the attacks. Instead, an NPA spokesman, like some opposition leaders, claimed that the government was behind the attacks to make it appear that Metro Manila was facing a security threat to justify the imposition of martial law.
Opposition leader Imee Marcos said the Arroyo administration "is making up scenarios" that it could blame on the political opposition.
Ms Marcos said: "They will blame everything on the opposition. The scenario is ideal for them to have a reason to declare an emergency rule."
Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay of the United Opposition said: "Has the creeping martial law now actually crept up to our doorstep and about to enter?"
Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said it was not surprising that President Arroyo's detractors were making such allegations. "These incidents have all the earmarks of a scheme to sabotage the government at a time when we are clearly moving ahead. But these saboteurs will never succeed," he said.
* 'Bombs meant to sow fear, not kill' (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Dec 9)
* Military tags Reds in Metro attacks (The Philippine Star, Dec 9)