Fast Forward — by Teddy Casi
Manila, Philippines, Friday-Saturday, March 7-8, 2003
Call me paranoid, but is that the hand of the US Central Intelligence Agency I see lurking behind the clouds of smoke from the Davao airport blast?
While watching the evening news last Tuesday, I was reminded of a failed bombing incident in Davao City last year involving a US national. I remember there was something fishy about his being whisked away to the States by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Searching my old files, I dug up an article written by a certain Craig Hanley and published in the Indymedia website on Oct. 10, 2002.
Piecing together various news reports over a five-month period from May to September 2002, Hanley came to this conclusion: "The Pentagon wants new bases in Asia, and it is killing civilians to get them."
The central character in Hanley's expose is Michael Terrence Meiring, a 65-year-old US national who accidentally blew himself up in his room at the Evergreen Hotel in Davao on May 16. He was charged with illegal possession of explosives and reckless imprudence and later branded a terrorist by city prosecutor Raul Bendico.
While in the hospital, security around Meiring was unusually tight. He was kept from the press. Only his doctor -- reportedly handpicked by the US embassy -- had access to him. Vice-consul Michael Newbill settled the hospital bills.
To the frustration of prosecutor Bendico, the case never prospered. Meiring was surreptitiously whisked out of the hospital, past his PNP (Philippine National Police) guards and airlifted out of Davao to San Diego, USA, home to a US naval base.
BID deputy commissioner Daniel Queto later confirmed that Meiring was escorted by agents of the US National Security Agency and the FBI.
A three-part series in the Manila Times, published May 29-31, 2002, revealed Meiring's shady character. Apparently, he had been in the Philippines since 1992, where he first worked with the NBI under the protection of NBI chief of Interpol Ricardo Diaz.
Meiring fit the classic description of a spook to a T. In his 10 years in Davao, he was supposed to have established ties not only with well-placed officials in the civilian bureaucracy, military and police establishment, but also with the MILF (Moro National Liberation Front), MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), NPA (New People's Army) and even the Abu Sayyaf.
He was supposed to have sold $500 million worth of US Federal Reserve notes and bonds which he boasted to have found in an old war chest for US and Filipino guerillas.
The Philippine STAR would later report, in its July 9, 2002 issue, that Meiring was "deployed by the CIA, sometime in the early up to the mid-90s, on assignment in Southern Mindanao "
Hanley's conclusion on Meiring is that he was a "Manila-controlled, CIA-connected, White House-protected explosives expert" who "blew his legs off while making a bomb in his hotel room during the region-wide terror bombing spree that traumatized Mindanao "
Curiously, last year's bombing spree, capped by Meiring's accidental hotel blast, happened while the Balikatan 02-1 exercises were ongoing.
Like Hanley, I am inclined to believe that Washington has sent over its dirty tricks department onto our shores. America certainly has the motive, which is to justify its increasing military presence in Mindanao and eventually its direct intervention in the conflict.
Remember, Mindanao is still considered the "second front" of the US-led war on terror. Last year's Balikatan exercise was dubbed Enduring Freedom-Philippines, an offshoot of the United States' campaign in Afghanistan with the same code name.
Take note that the recent bombing occurred in the midst of crucial negotiations between the Philippine and US governments for the terms of the next Balikatan exercises.
The Bush administration wants its troops to be directly involved in combat operations in Sulu and possibly other parts of Mindanao. The Philippine government, on the other hand, is constrained by the Constitution that bans foreign troops, facilities and bases except by a treaty.
Notwithstanding the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and its recently approved sub agreements -- the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1999 (VFA) and Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement of 2002 (MLSA) -- American troops are still not allowed to engage in combat operations in the country, not even against terrorist bandit groups like the Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon Gang.
In last year's Balikatan 02-1 in Basilan, they managed to go around this constraint by coming up with a terms of reference (TOR) that allowed US troops to fire back only if fired upon. This will simply not do in a more hostile environment like Sulu, where the Balikatan 03-1 is scheduled to be held.
But then in this country, the Constitution can easily be trampled upon by those in power if public opinion so allows. This is what a bombing here and there does -- traumatize the people into subservience.
A day after the blast, Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who used to be strongly against the presence of US troops in the country, made a turnaround and said he welcomed "any help from anyone to put an end to terrorism."
But it's not only the Americans who want to escalate the war in Mindanao. There are also the hawks in the Arroyo administration, not least of all the President herself, who wants greater US involvement in the region for let's see 4.26 billion reasons (don't forget the dollar sign, dear).
It isn't surprising that a day after the blast, authorities arrested nine people, five of whom were branded as members of the MILF. Military and police officials are now saying this was a joint operation of the MILF and NPA or the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf.
The most ridiculous allegations come from the Abu Sayyaf itself, a known creation of the CIA whose leaders deal on the side with military and police officials. Their leader Hamsiraji Sali now claims they are working with the MILF, MNLF, NPA and Pentagon Gang, with funding courtesy of the Iraqi embassy.
Sali's statements may sound ridiculous, even hilarious in the Philippines. But in the US, where the American public doesn't know a thing about what is really going on here, such absurdities can be used to justify increased US presence in the country and further proof that Baghdad is indeed harboring terrorists.
The problem with these bombings, I guess, is that it is being perpetrated by the hawks in the Bush and Arroyo administrations. It's either that or I've been watching too many spy movies.
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The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip on Mar 14th 2003