Separate NBI probe on Parang blast urged

- John Unson -
PARANG, Maguindanao — Victims of the Jan. 4 bombing here have called on President Arroyo to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a separate inquiry into the incident, alleging that the suspects whom local authorities have implicated were mere "fall guys."

The blast, the worst-ever in this town’s history, killed 22 people, mostly members of influential Muslim families, and wounded 71 others, including the town’s re-electionist mayor, Vivencio Bataga.

Bataga, a retired Army colonel who had fought secessionist rebels for nearly 40 years, earlier said his political enemies could have plotted the bombing to neutralize him.

Bataga’s known political enemy, Vice Mayor Adnan Biruar, said Bataga’s accusations have "blemished" his image as a political leader and have caused considerable setbacks to his bid for a second term.

Contesting Bataga’s re-election bid is Tali Abo, who is Biruar’s running mate and staunch ally. Biruar and Abo both belong to the administration party Lakas-CMD (Christian-Muslim Democrats).

"An honest-to-goodness investigation into the incident will clear out things and will open the eyes of all sectors in Parang on the real intricacies of the bombing incident," Biruar told The STAR in a cellular phone interview.

The relatives of suspects arrested by the police and military reportedly without warrants last week, including those earlier charged as masterminds, said President Arroyo must intervene, apprehensive that authorities would carry out the arrests of more people "unduly implicated" in the incident.

One of the suspects, Kusain Taha, also known as Commander Bagi-Bagi in the Moro National Liberation Front, alleged last week that his military interrogators tortured him to force him to name Biruar and Abo as the masterminds of the bombing.

Personnel of the provincial jail have claimed that Taha had injuries and was "blindfolded" when the military police turned him over.

"We cannot understand why, without any evidence, our mayor has been doing his best to link us to the bombing. This is unfair," Biruar said. "They are doing everything to pin me down and all my political allies."

The parents of at least 13 bystanders wounded in the bombing said they are convinced that the arrested suspects — Taha, Khalid Macapaar and a certain Omar — were not the ones who pulled off the bombing.

"There could be a deeper angle in the incident. While we are yearning for justice, we want one that is fair to all, one that is acceptable to all of us, including those unduly implicated in the bombing," a 43-year-old Iranon said in the vernacular.

Another source, who asked to be identified only as Makud, said the NBI must conduct a separate investigation into the incident to identify the real culprits.

Biruar said certain groups are also trying to foment conflict between his clan and the families of those killed and wounded in the bombing.

"The incident has affected me politically. Because of so much disinformation, I cannot freely roam around Pa—rang now due to security reasons," he said.











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