Footnotes on 9/11 about RP: ‘Torture’ of a terror suspect

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 () - September 13, 2006 - 12:00am
Five years after the 9/11 terror attacks, international terrorist groups seem to seek more ingenious ways to bring their campaign to the next higher level. Naturally, anti-terrorism experts ought to, and must be, several steps ahead of such plots to deter, if not totally prevent them to carry more attacks. There were a lot of restrospection and looking back into the 9/11 documentary shown last Monday. Most of the people around the world remembered that tragic day when thousands of lives were lost in apparent suicide plane crashes that totally destroyed the Twin Towers in New York, severely damaged the Pentagon, and rocked a quiet field in Pennsylvania.

I was among the captive audience of a documentary "Inside 9/11 Week" that was featured by the National Geographic Channel (NGC) on cable television last Monday night. As in the other 9/11 documentary features that I have watched in the past, there was again attribution to the Philippines where the seeds of the 9/11 incident were first traced. The alleged plot was discovered literally by accident by the Philippine National Police (PNP) when a fire broke out in a Manila apartment 200 yards from the Vatican’s embassy.

The plot was supposedly abandoned after an apartment fire on Jan. 6, 1995. The fire occurred before Pope John Paul II was scheduled to visit the Philippines on Jan. 12. The incident took place at the six-story Doña Josefa apartments. Police were shocked by what they found inside: A smoking mixture of explosives in a sink, street maps and garments like those worn by the Pope’s entourage, suggesting a plot to kill the Pontiff. They also say they found laptop and computer disks containing detailed plans to blow up US airliners. The alleged plot involved leaving bombs on flights that would take off from Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. It was the alleged "Bojinka" plot by the terrorist suspects. This incident led Philippine law enforcement authorities to the three suspected terrorists, namely, Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah.

The NGC credited the discovery of the "Bojinka" plot to Filipino police officials led by Rodolfo Mendoza who I would learn later is also known as Boogie Mendoza. He is now the deputy director of the PNP directorate for investigation and detective management. In this NGC docu-feature, Mendoza was shown reading an intelligence report he supposedly turned over to their counterpart American authorities to alert them of this terrorist plot against US-bound planes. Unfortunately, this PNP intelligence report was ignored by the US government. Murad, though, was subsequently extradited to the US on April 12, 1995. His testimony helped convict Yousef who was later captured in Pakistan.

Basically, there was no new thing presented in this NGC docu-feature on the 9/11 incident. But I nearly fell from my bed when the annotator of this NGC 9/11 docu-feature was on the part telling about how Filipino policemen were able to extract vital information from Murad who was caught while trying to recover the laptop from the apartment. Paraphrasing the words of the NGC annotator, he was saying Murad "cracked up" after almost a month of "tactical interrogation" by the police authorities. In graphic details, the NGC annotator described how Filipino police authorities tortured Murad into confessing what he knew about the "Bojinka plot" by burning his genitalia with lighted cigarette butts, mauled him, and applied "water treatment" that almost drowned the suspect.

Yesterday, when I went over the files of the "Bojinka plot" in the internet, I found out that the NGC details of the alleged torture on Murad was apparently lifted from Under the Crescent Moon – book written by Filipina journalists Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria. While it is a known fact that our policemen really do these torture and other physical abuses on suspects, I was appalled, however, how the NGC flippantly repeated these claims in graphic detail about the torture of Murad in the hands of Filipino police authorities.

Being widely watched all over the world, this particular NGC docu-feature on 9/11 hopefully would not trigger renewed passion by the Muslim brothers of Murad here and abroad that might endanger us all in the Philippines. It was like telling our Muslim brothers from the rest of the world that they should vent their ire on the Philippines where Murad got beaten up by policemen.

It was brutally frank to describe how this latest NGC docu-feature on 9/11 was put together specifically on the Philippine part of how the "Bojinka plot" was unraveled. It was a far cry from the first NGC documentary that I was able to watch about two months ago. There was even a reenactment of the story as told by Philippine authorities on how a minor fire at the apartment uncovered this terror plot.

The first NGC docu-feature dealt a lot on how the "Bojinka plot" was skillfully and professionally handled by Philippine police authorities. Actors played out roles on how the suspects accidentally started the chemical fire in the kitchen sink in Suite 603 at the 6th floor of this apartment. The fire was spotted at about 11 p.m. after residents complained about a strange odor. Police, including 55-year old watch commander Aida D. Fariscal, who decided to investigate the situation, first found four hot plates in their packing crates, what looked like cotton batting soaked in a beige solution, and loops of green, red, blue, and yellow electrical wiring. Fariscal had been suspicious of the men in Suite 603 due to a chain of bombings that happened in the Philippines prior to Jan. 6. After police discovered the evidence, they arrested a man who called himself Ahmed Saeed, who claimed that he was a commercial pilot. It turned out later that Saeed’s real name is Murad.

In that particular NGC docu-feature, it featured a long interview of Avelino Razon, who was then the District Director of the Manila Police, on how Philippine authorities handled this clear and present danger during those times and became the 9/11 that was finally carried out successfully in 2001. Razon is now a three-star police general and the most senior deputy to PNP Director-General Oscar Calderon. When I talked to him yesterday about the NGC docu-feature last Monday night, he told me he was not able to watch it. He retorted though, that Murad would not be still alive today if the torture claims were totally true. In other words, I concluded, Murad would have been a salvaged victim.

It is rather a sad commentary of how our police authorities ended up in this kind of footnote on the 9/11 history.
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Write to marichu@philstar.net.ph

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