By SERAFIN RAMOS JR. and BETH RAMOS – PALMA GIL
MAITUM, Sarangani (January 26, 2009) – An improvised explosive device(IED) blew up at a vacant lot here around 5pm Saturday (January 24) in what witnesses said was lobbed by two motorcycle-riding men coming from the direction of General Santos City.
The IED exploded at a grassy portion 15 meters from the concrete wall of a Globe Telecom cellsite in the poblacion, according to a report from the 28th Infantry Battalion based here.
Nobody was hurt and no damage was reported.
According to witnesses, the IED was tossed by two unidentified teenagers who fled towards the direction of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat province.
The military has deployed additional troops to man checkpoints and conduct roving patrols around the town center to protect vital installations and civilians.
"Ang pangyayari kaninang hapon na kung saan ay meron na namang pumutok na bomba ay nagpapatunay na ang mga lawless elements ay determinado natakutin ang mga tao. Pero nagkakamali sila dahil ang mga tao na mismoang nagbibigay ng impormasyon upang sa ganun ay hindi sila magtagumpaysa kanilang layunin," Lt. Col. Ferdinand Budeng said Saturday.
"Nakikipag-cooperate na ang mga tao sa militar at pulis para ma-solve ang problem na ito."
"Hindi nagtagumpay ang mga terorista dahil walang casualty sa mga tao at walang nasirang mga ari-arian," said Budeng, battalion commander ofthe 28th IB.
The blast came in the wake of a detonation by police and military Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) teams of an IED left in front of the town hall Friday (January 23).The IED was spotted by a civilian, prompting employees to evacuate the building. No one was hurt.
"We will not be cowered by the recent bombing incidents and we would like to make a statement that they cannot prevent us from our day today activities especially our forthcoming Bangsi Festival," Mayor Elsie Perrett said.
Bangsi Festival, a marketing pitch for Maitum's One Town, One Product– the marinated flying fish (bangsi) - culminates on January 30 and31. The festival's theme is "Inaalagaang Karagatan, Nagbunga ng Kasaganaan" (Maitum Sea, Sun, and Shore, bounty and beauty.)
"We will intensify our vigilance and we will do our best to protectour people from these lawless elements by all means," the mayor said.
Budeng said the military has placed heightened security on 24-hourduty. "We will see to it that all vital installations are well-guardedby the military and police," he said.
On Friday, civilians, military and police operatives jointly foiledthe attempt to explode a timed IED hidden beside a ramp where people pass towards the municipal hall's main door.
Budeng said the IED was made of 60 millimeter mortar fitted with alarm clock and blasting cap.
Army and police EOD operatives from General Santos City, 107 km east of Maitum, detonated the IED minutes before it was set to blow up at11:40am."We are thankful for the vigilance of the community and I ask each and every one of us to be more vigilant in order to thwart any attempt of lawless elements to sow terror and fear in our beloved community,"Perrett said in press statement.
"We thank the AFP and PNP for handling the situation carefully anddiligently which resulted to zero casualty," the mayor said.
Perrett said "this is no time for blaming and pinpointing at each other because this will only divide us. The other side would be happy if we did. Instead, we need to cooperate and work closely together.Report any suspected IED to proper authorities, stay calm to avoidchaos and confusion. Let us not allow the terroristic behavior of somepeople who want nothing but to destroy the peace in our community andstall our development initiatives."
Cesar Tayan, president of a motor cycling group, said that around8:30am Friday, he noticed "a black triangle thing covered by black electrical tape with penlite battery and two inches plastic clip colored green."
He quickly called the attention of the police on duty and informed the chief of police who asked all employees to vacate the municipal hall.
Another witness, an on-the-job trainee at the town hall, noted that at about 8:20am, as she alighted from a tricycle, she saw two men seated at a bench at the right side of the town hall entrance.It was the same place where the IED was planted.
"Yung isa, mga 5'4" ang height, katamtaman ang pangangatawan, naka RayBan, puti na t-shirt ang suot, fair skinned," she disclosed.
"Yungisa putot siya, medyo kulot at makapal ang buhok, naka red shirt,medyo maitim, may itinago kaagad sa likod niya noong nakita niya ako."
She also noticed a black motorcycle parked in front of the bench where they were seated. "Mga bagong mukha, at hindi ko kilala," she said.
Upon discovery of the IED, the municipal hall was cordoned off bypolice. EOD personnel detonated the IED around noon.At the Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council meeting, chief of police PInsp. Joel Marfil Fuerte pointed out the need for a more vigilant community by saying "we cannot do it alone."
"So far, na-prevent natin ang pagkakaroon ng damage or casualty so maganda ang nangyari dahil sa pagkikipagtulungan ng ating civilians,na-recover natin yong bomba bago pumutok," Fuerte said. (SARANGANIINFORMATION OFFICE)