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Moro terrorists eyed in Hilongos bombings

HILONGOS, LEYTE – Authorities are eyeing the possibility that Moro terrorists, financed by drug money, are behind the twin bombings in Hilongos town on the evening of their feast day on
Wednesday, December 28. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte himself confirmed this, in his visit to the victims on December 30, saying that these Moro terrorists are funded by drug money. A theory that they are looking at, said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to media, is “It looks like they are employing diversionary tactics elsewhere to ease military pressure on them (in Mindanao).”
Identified as having a hand in the bombings are the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Maute bandit group, after it was established that the bombs used were 81-mm mortars, bombs that the two groups use in their acts of terror in Mindanao.

What happened?

32 people were injured in two bombings that occurred just around 25 meters away from the police station here. About a thousand spectators were watching the free boxing bout that the open space nearby, when two bombs went off. Luckily for the town officials who were seated near the second bomb, only its blasting cap went off, sparing them. Mayor Albert “Bentong” Vil-lahermosa, in an interview, admitted he did not feel nervous after the bombing happened because he also helped in the rescue, but it was only after that he realized he could have been one of the victims and probably could have died as they were near the second bomb. They were only around 12 meters away from the bomb. Injured were Cristita Anoos, 47; Kevin Manicar, 13; Gezelle Managbanag, 36;
Jay Miguel Liba, 11; Christian Lelis, 14; Elwin Liba, 33; Domingo Liba, 60; Wilbert Alingasa, 14; Rudy Bulta, 33; Guillermo Sorila, 30; Rogelio Managbanag, 26; Joseph Bryan Bohol, 24; John Reni Namo, 15; Vicente Nunez, 24; Ricardo Regaton, 53; Junrey Lumbog, 20; Aldrin Goltiano, 19; Edenio Macuto; Marcelita Abina, 62; Doroteo Libres, 30; King Michael Megazo, 15; Elmer Rebullos, 27; Jessie Abina, 32; Roselyn Lasmarias, 42; Leonilo Villaro, Chris Angel Abina, 7; Mamido Macarat Lusuegro, 38; Jessica Geli, 19; Mary Grace Odias, 12; Letecia Liba, 55; Christian Liba, 12;
and Joel Mamalak, 14. He also shares the observation that the bombings could have been done by Moro terrorists, saying the LGU and the police have recently had run-ins with the town’s growing
Moro population. Last October, the police here caught one Raida Sarip y Ampaso, who was in the town to deliver shabu to a contact. She is now behind bars and no bail recommended for her
temporary liberty.

Authorities could have also irked the Moros in town when they caught some minors circulating fake currency. A minor had also turned state witness against two Moros who were tagged as behind the salisi gang operating in Western Leyte. On December 24, the police cracked down on Moro vendors who were selling illegal firecrackers. It was also learned from the Hilongos police that the town has a huge Moro population. The town has two mosques and the community even recently hosted a “convention” when around 1,000 people from Mindanao came. The President’s visit. In his visit to the victims of the bombing, Pres. Rodrigo gave P 10,000 financial assistance to each of them and gave cellphones to the 10 childrenvictims. He said he wanted the kids to become his text mates, showing Leyteños a glimpse of that side of the tough-talking President’s fondness for children. With President Duterte were Michael Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, and special presidential assistant Christopher “Bong” Go.

The victims were teary eyed as they recalled to the President their ordeal that dreadful night when the incident happened. 12-year old Mary Grace Odias, one of the victims from Brgy. Marangog here, told the President she was watching the fight with her parents and younger sibling when she heard the explosion near the water tank. She has been treated but the wound on her left leg needs to be observed and she faces the bleak prospect of welcoming the New Year in the hospital. Another victim, Jecell Managbanag, 26, is five months pregnant with her second child. Although her baby is okay, she needs to be transferred to Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) for surgery on her left leg.

Meanwhile, Pres. Duterte, in his short speech outside the hospital, said that there is a “deep” (lalom) motive for the bombing. In the vernacular, he said, “Pag-anhi nako kay naa ko’y gusto ihonghong nila. Nahibalo na sila. Salig lang mo sa police ug military kay ako nang gisulti nila, they will protect you, wala’y problema na.” (I came here to meet them (the patients)
personally because I wanted to whisper something to them. They now know. I told them also to trust the police and the military. They will protect you and there’s no more problem.”
“Kahibawo ko nga dili kayo grabe ang nasamdan, pero lalom ang duwa ani. Di lang ko mosulti ug ngano mao nga nituyo gyud ko ug paganhi pakigstorya sa military ug police kay kaning duwa lalom
kaayo,” the president added. (I know that that the victims are now out of danger, but I still had to come to meet with the military and police here personally. The bombing has a deep, dark motive.) As of this writing, the victims have already received P3,000 cash assistance from the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, P5,000 from the Dept. of Social Welfare and Development, and P10,000 from the President. The LGU is also allocating P 3,000.00 for each of them.

They were also given food and other personal items from DSWD and Red Cross aside from free hospitalization. The president’s former wife, Elizabeth Zimmerman, traces her Leyteño roots to
this town.

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