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Oct 20

Testimony

The latest news is C-4 bomb component used in Glorietta blast – PNP chemist and Glorietta death toll rises to 9. For its part, Makati blast a ‘terror act,’ military says: Leftists, rightists, extremists eyed.

After 24 hours of no groups coming forward to claim responsibility for the blast, ‘RSM spokesman’ owns up to Glorietta 2 blast although it’s far from being confirmed. What have come in, prior to this news, were denials: Abu Sayyaf denies hand in Makati bomb attack while MILF offers help in deadly blast probe.

All we know are slender clues to a whole that has yet to be literally pieced together: Investigators to scour Glorietta underground for blast clues.

The past is now. Perhaps it’s the part of me that constantly refers to the past, to make sense of the present, that draws me at this time, to the eyewitness accounts being published on line. The point when eyewitness bear witness to what they saw, where testimony makes the transition from an oral story to one written down, and thus, becomes a story that can enter history, is the point where journalism and history connect. Or perhaps it’s the need to keep yesterday’s events on a human scale, knowing it’s that scale that is the best antidote to whoever perpetrated the bombing.

So let us begin with the testimony.

Of Law and Badminton was there:

True enough, when we were on the third floor of Glorietta 2, we were able to find Toby’s. I told my friend to go there and make her purchase, while I would be browsing at the tiangge stores right outside. I was looking at the latest fashionable blouses, muttering to myself that I would never be able to pull them off. I still tried on one blouse, but to no avail. Hindi talaga bagay…shucks.

I received a text message from my friend at around 1:25 P.M., telling me that she was near Timezone waiting for me, but urging me to take my time. Immediately after I got her text, I tried to locate her. Not able to find her, I decided to call her up.

Just when the phone was ringing, I heard a very loud explosion nearby coupled with a very intense shake which felt like an Intensity 10 earthquake. I almost fell to the ground because of the impact! I felt like I was in twilight zone or something, as I watched debris falling everywhere and smoke billowing from behind. Suddenly, people were screaming and shouting and pushing me. I had no choice but to follow the crowd. I began to wonder whether my friend was safe and as I was about to call her up, I heard what seemed like another explosion. I froze for a second, terrified, not knowing where to go. At that very second, I felt terror grip my body, wondering if there were still several bombs about to go off, and wondering if we were running headlong into another bomb. I don’t know how my legs were able to function but before I knew it, I was walking straight into Landmark.

Thankfully, the guards removed the table and opened the doors wide in order to receive the big crowd emanating from Glorietta 2. As I stepped into what felt like safe ground, I received a call from my friend asking me where I was. I was relieved upon hearing her voice knowing that at least she was OK. I told her I was at Landmark and not to worry about me. I called up my husband to tell him what happened. Fortunately he was just nearby and that he would pick me up immediately. I couldn’t contact my friend anymore since the network (Globe) was already busy. Good thing there was no traffic in sending text messages. After texting her and knowing she was ok, and that her driver was about to pick her up, it was only at that moment that I suddenly felt relieved.

Cindy.cIndy.ciNdy.cinDy.cindY also relates,

Earlier that day we agreed to dine in Pizza Hut which was in the second floor of Glorietta 2. We proceeded to Pizza Hut and placed our orders. Moments later a loud bang was heard. I didn’t move thinking that it was nothing serious. I actually thought that it was some activity prepared by Glorietta. But the whole Glorietta trembled like there was an earthquake. The ceiling almost fell but luckily only small debris fell from the ceiling. My friend was pushing me to stand. Immediately I packed my things. We turned our heads and saw heavy white smoke outside the establishment. People were screaming and running away from the smoke. That was the time that I realized that it was an explosion and that it might not be the only one. We panicked! I grabbed my friend’s hand and we ran toward the escalators in the activity area. Pizza Hut was just about 20 meters away where the bombing happened. We were lucky that the direction of the bomb explosion was in the direction of Park Square and not toward the activity area. At the bottom of the escalator, some insulators of the mall can be found. Debris kept falling inside and the smoke was approaching the activity area. I told my friend to ran headed for SM. We ran and never looked back. People from SM didn’t know that there was a bombing incident at Glorietta. Later a group of women and security guards were screaming and running toward us. At that instant we ran to MRT station, bought tickets and finally got out of the place.

Welcome to my life! published her mother’s story:

On the way back to office, while on board the escalator, we heard a loud blast. I was stunned as I watched the ceiling of the floor below me collapse like domino tiles and orange plastic pipes started to fall too. I saw the sales girls from the collapsed stores running for their lives. I was thinking someone must have been killed down there. I was stunned and stood still on the moving escalator until my friend Milette hugged me and shouted, “RUN!”. It jolted me and made me realize that the floor in which we were in could also collapse. I grabbed her hand and ran as fast as I could to Landmark department store which is connected to the mall we came from. My heart was pounding. Our other friends got separated from us but we all made ourway safely back to office on foot.

flipflopping my way around town recounts that “there, but for the grace of God, go I,” feeling many people had:

Apparently, Mommy was also at Glorietta looking for the Baby Couture stall as she was supposed to buy a bag for her god daughter. Thank God for Mommy’s bad sense of direction, she somehow got lost and went the other way from where the stall was. (note: the Baby Couture is located at Glorietta 2 together with the other baby/kiddie shops at the 2nd floor). Then she heard a loud bang and felt the vibration. Thinking it must be an earthquake she entered Abensons and asked the salesman if she can stay there for safety. What scared her was when she saw a lot of people rushing out from the mall, some were hysterical, some were crying… then she heard some screaming “may bomba may bomba!” (there’s a bomb! there’s a bomb!).

There were those in the vicinity of the blast, as Bryanton Post relates:

Melissa, a friend whom I was supposed to meet last night, was eating in Via Mare in Landmark when the blast occurred. Had she decided to eat in Glorietta after a physical exam in one of the clinics there, she later told me, she would have been included among the casualties. The impact, she said, was so strong that it was even felt in Landmark. An earthquake, people around her kept saying. No, she said to herself. It felt more like the whole mall had just taken a roller coaster ride, she told me.

If that was even felt in Landmark, I can’t simply imagine the impact in Glorietta.

Another account is by O-C Mumzie, who was in a gym in the area:

Ten minutes behind schedule now, I focused on the remaining tasks on my to-do list. I hurried to the locker room to change, gather my things and check-out. And then it happened… the building rocked and the sound of exploding glass and screams rang out. Glorietta 2 had just been bombed. And then a second blast.

At that point, we didn’t know what it was. For some reason though, I feared the worse. My friend, Maricar, asked me what happened and I just said “I think it was a bomb”. I guess it was the screams that told me. We peered though the 3rd floor gym lobby and saw the security guard rolling down the steel partitions. Beyond, we could see thick clouds of smoke (we learned later was pulverized cement) billowing from inside the mall and the screams of terror became more audible. I heard the receptionist say the blast came from nearby Timezone. My God! The children! With that thought, I knew I had to focus and look after my own safety. It was a mother’s instinct in me that suddenly took control of my every move– I needed to be safe for my own children.

Immediately I helped Maricar take control. After gathering my things, I helped her clean out her locker and carried one of her bags. I told her we should exit though the ground floor of the gym that would lead us directly outside the mall and into an open park. In seconds, we were out and joined the hundreds already gathered in the safety of open ground. I called my husband, my kids, my sisters and friends who mattered to me most just to let them know I’m okay. My car was stranded ar the car park with my driver so my husband sent his driver to pick me up at the packed Starbucks at 6750.

But here’s a curious thing, which to me, will gain significance as the various eyewitness accounts are cross-checked and the specific circumstances begin to emerge. Take this account by As the world turns, who was there in Glorietta 2 at the time of the blast:

For the life of me, I couldn’t understand how I failed to feel the earthquake-like blast, as described by those interviewed in TV newscasts, in Glorietta 2 yesterday, when the rest of the people beside who were also there, watching from the second floor, not very far from the scene of the blast, those at the activity center below, running, scampering towards the exit doors. We were looking at each other wondering what was going on! We weren’t panicky, we were simply bewildered. What I heard were the ear-splitting squeaks of shutters and doors of shops and stores being shot and hurled down in hurried succession.

I took the escalator studiedly. I stayed and waited for a while at the ground floor where some mall security people were gathered trying to piece the information they got from their receivers, for news because I was curious. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to know if there was a fire because smoke filled the area. I asked a security guard what was that all about. He simply replied, “Ma’am, I do not have an official word yet, you are safe, please stay calm and walk towards the exit door carefully.” When I got out of the exit door facing the Shangri-la Hotel, all the people were politely and courteously requested by the security guards to cross towards the tent because they were sealing the perimeters off in and around Glorietta.

The smoke wafting out of the door smelled of gunpowder or firecrackers, I distinctly remember. I couldn’t leave the tent because it rained. Besides, the immediate surroundings were filled with cars – firetrucks, ambulance, private cars, police cars, news companies’, etc. The paths towards Landmark were completely sealed off.

gimmepeanutbutter wasn’t as close to the scene:

Kuya Tim and I arrived at the venue earlier than my calltime so we had to wait for a while. After around 30 minutes of staring into space, I suddenly heard something that sounded like thunder. I didn’t mind it at first–until people started running out of Glorietta. At this point I kinda got scared. I got even more nervous when the prod team started asking us if we were ready to run. Fortunately, we didn’t have to.

Meet Joebacs recounts,

Immediately after most of the food we ordered were already on our table, tragedy struck a few meters away. We didn’t actually hear anything. The glass window of the restaurant didn’t shake, no abnormal audible sound caught our ear. We only learned that something was amiss when throngs of people, literally, poured out onto the streets.

A lot of stories swirled, different accounts of what happened. The alleged location of the blast were quite varied. We thought the ceiling in one of the stores just caved in. We only learned about the seriousness of what transpired when we saw a teenager still in schock with a gash on her feet…

Some, like Yugatech, were spared the worst of it but were left bewildered like the Mall employees they encountered:

Since my car was parked at the underground of 6750, most of my encounters where with Glorietta employees still busy doing their jobs despite the rush and ensuing panic.

I asked the lady at the parking gate why they haven’t been let go for the day considering the imminent danger. She was wondering of the same thing too.

When I got out on the street, it was packed with people - shoppers, employees, policemen, traffic enforcers and tons of vehicles trying to drive away from the scene. So was I.

Lost In My Headspace provides not only an account of what it was like in Glorietta, but among the most famous amateur videos of the event, too. This haunting photo by noelldeg says it all, for the survivors. My Mobile Blog — blogging minus the PC has photos of some of the casualties. See the Glorietta Blast mutlimedia photo, too.

Behind the Stories relates what it’s like for reporters to be alerted of a breaking story and then rushing to cover it:

I was about to eat my lunch when the day desk editor called, and was panicking when he told me that an explosion happened at Glorietta. And much as I wanted to panic too, I merely stayed calm. I immediately got out of the Crame press office, left my just-to-be-eaten yummy lunch and took the MRT.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the scene, and as usual engaged myself in a brief word war with security guards. Hohohoho hahaha while I tried to get to the other side of Glorietta, with all luck..my heels broke. So I went back to SM and bought a pair of cheap flipflops to get me through.

Finally arriving at the scene moments later, I saw how the Glorietta 2 entrance was reduced in rubble, and all those shattered glasses, and the cadavers yet to be brought to the morgue. Sure, this one was a very memorable coverage for me. It was I witnessing yet another part of history unfold.

But it was really devastating. I held back tears. I knew I had to work. I knew I had to do away with emotions. I knew I had to accept that this world is cruel.

A tragedy also results in questions being asked. And tough questions need to be asked. Not later, but now. To postpone them out of a misplaced sense of compassion for the victims will do more harm than good in the long run.The security measures of the Ayala Malls (and malls in general) comes in for criticism by The Banker’s Council:

Ah, those large doorway-detectors. Those that beep incessantly when we the general public pass through them. And what do the guards do when the big gray machine sounds out that it has detected a metallic object? NOTHING.

I have passed by that area many times. Sometimes I bring my backpack and laptop. Other times I just have my Pacsafe wallet around my neck. And everytime, the machine sounds its alarm. And everytime, the guards do not ask me (or anyone else) to “please empty your pockets and go through the machine again.”

And to think that they have a secondary security-cum-detection device – the handheld metal detector, such as this.

So what are those machines for in the first place?

Come to think of it, if the damage was caused by an exploding LPG tank, wouldn’t a fire break out?

Come to think of it (again), if the damage was caused by an exploding LPG tank, I’d probably agree that there was no security lapse and that the incident, unfortunate as it was, could have been an accident, though magnified many many times.

Anyway, back to the security situation.

The other news reports say that the blast site had traces of components used in the making of plastic explosives such as the military-use C4. So I guess the metal detectors would have been of no help.

Are the security guards, metal detectors and other high-tech gadgets enough of a deterrent to those who would intentionally cause havoc in such a place filled with civilians?

Similar thoughts are in Prudence and Madness and in A Day in the Life.. In IndioSign, there’s an observation about the limitations of modern buildings. In her blog, Stella Arnaldo who also has no love lost for Ayala Malls security, points to security shortcomings but also discusses something that no one can ignore:

Even before Sen. Trillanes pointed his fingers at the Presidentita GMA and her henchmen being behind the Glorietta blasts, the man on the street and your friendly neighborhood cab drivers were already thinking the same. I spoke to a few later in the evening. Pinoys aren’t stupid although our politicians make us out to be. (If this was the handiwork of terrorists, by yesterday evening, they would have claimed responsibility for the blast already because they are a proud bunch.)

Of course you can say it’s just another conspiracy theory but really, the public, especially the masa have come to distrust the Presidentita and her people. We can’t put anything past her. Almost everyone believes she is capable of doing anything just to perpetuate herself in power and refocus the public’s attention away from her government’s latest foibles. As usual, the Presidentita’s text brigade (Hello NTC: Check out 0905-346-8994) is actively trying to spin the bombings against her critics especially politicians in the opposition. While she tells them to stop politicking and taking advantage of the incident, her handlers are doing it for her. Amateurs talaga!

Mind you, these thoughts have entered the minds of people normally not inclined to have a say, either way, when it comes to politics. zalveen-ice’s Site, I think, is an example of a skeptical public. See, also, A Pinoy Investment Banker’s Homepage (I take it that the blogger is representative of the core constituency of the administration, the upper and professional classes):

Do you know what our consensus was as we speculated on the incident? It was probably the handiwork of people loyal to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) to divert media attention away from her in the light of a series of scandals which had rocked her administration. Since our initial feedback was that it was simply a LPG explosion, we even thought that whoever planned the thing was hare-brained and stupid to begin with. (Of course, we know now that it was not exploding LPG tanks which caused the damage but more like C-4). We have become cynical of GMA to have thought this way, rightly or wrongly. She really has a serious credibility problem with her constituency.

See The Warrior Lawyer and The Four-eyed Journal and Tongue in, Anew and Do my stories piss you off? as well as Random Thoughts.

From New Philippine Revolution comes an effort to whittle down the (large) list of suspects, and his list has the American CIA and a rogue group from the AFP at the top. On the other hand, Philippine Commentary is firmly convinced that the prime suspect remains Muslim groups. As he puts it,

I for one cannot even imagine the possibility of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordering such a thing, much less some rogue supporters who would act without her knowledge. She may be corrupt as events have proven, and craven enough to try to hold onto power by almost any means. But I just don’t believe she, or any of her people would be ruthless enough to do this. If anything she would rather run away than fight, as shown in the Angelo dela Cruz incident in Iraq, and in her pusillanimous handling of the Mindanao situation, both of which were actually determined by the civil society uproar against showing any kind of spine against the terrorists.

Still, you would expect people to instinctively rally around the flag. I see very little of that taking place.

But with the need to experience what other people went through, comes another pressing human need -to understand and make sense of a tragedy. Akomismo puts the blast in the context of previous terrorist attacks. So does Touched by an Angel. People will grasp at anything to try to find a pattern.

Take a look at pine for pine analyzing the list of casualties. Take this text message quoted by rockersworld.com:

13 days after Pacquiao’s victory against Eric Morales, naganap ang WoWowee Stampede.
13 days after Pacquiao’s victory against Larios, Mayon Volcano erupted, many died in mudflow.
13 days after Pacquiao’s victory against Barrera, Glorietta explosion..

We are all part of a process of national grieving, which echoes the manner in which individuals come to terms with a loved one’s demise.

Mon Casiple’s analysis is the most chilling. Remember, this is a person not given to off-the-cuff statements or for letting his emotions veto his circumspection. He goes through the list of potential suspects and the implications if any specific group is proven to be behind the blast:

The Glorietta bombing basically creates an atmosphere of unease, tension, and fear among the populace. If there are others that followed, it may create panic or cause cumulative harm on the body politic. Such a situation puts pressure on a target political opponent and/or derails its normal activities. It may precede a decisive extra-constitutional move.

A convenient culprit remains the Abu Sayyaf or some other Moro rebel group. This is possible but military offensives against them have led to disarrays in their organization and capabilities. Small bombings in the South can be expected of these groups but a massive bombing in Metro Manila–such as the one in Glorietta–raises questions.

Two other groups have the capability for such an obviously carefully-planned bombing. One is the rebel group in the military. The other is the military itself.

Their engaging in the Glorietta bombing would mean a political connection or an incursion into the political arena by the rebel military. Assuming a political motive, the bombing would represent a demonstration of political strength–and nothing else. It flies against the logic of the present stage of the political crisis where the pressure is on the president and not on the opposition. Such a move can only weaken the political momentum of the opposition. The only logical reason–not necessarily tenable politically–is to prepare for a much more decisive strike at the center of power.

Involvement of military elements in the chain of command in the Glorietta bombing would mean that a section of the military has taken sides in the political conflict on the side of the president. The logic is to create a reason for an imposition of martial or some form of national emergency. There is a precedent in the past–that of the series of bombings Marcos did to justify martial rule in 1972.

The Glorietta bombing will not immediately produce any clear indication as to the motive(s) of the perpetrator. Succeeding incidents will create the patterns that make clear a decisive political–albeit extra-constitutional–strategy. Whatever happens, we have entered the final stretch of the political crisis.

An appeal for collective action comes from Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas!:

There are many ways where we can take a collective action to show our unity in expressing our disgust over the bombing. We can make a call on every Filipino homes to display a Philippine flag. Or we can all wear a black shirt on a particular day. Or we can ask the church to toll the bells, honk our cars, hit the pan, make a noise on a particular time. Or we can all just go to Glorietta, no speaches, no banners, no placards, just a show of numbers. Or we can spread the slogan, Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas (too self serving), to express our sentiment on our love for our country. The point is, we have experienced a collective wound. To bring about a positive outcome from this incident, we, the citizens minus the politicians, have to make a collective action.

I only disagree insofar as anyone would think it’s possible to move one way, without the politicians. Even saints had assholes. But Welcome to my World, a Filipino overseas, says it well:

This incident reminds me of the time when the good people of London also became victims of terrorist bombings. Instead of calling for arms and declaring war, then Prime Minister Tony Blair actually called out for all British citizens to remain vigilant and not to cower to the cowardice acts of these misleaded uneducated individuals. To not sink to their level. To not change one’s way of life, for if we succumb to these senseless barbaric acts then they have truly won. For their goal is not to simply kill a huge number of our countrymen, but to create fear to change our way of life. To terrorize a society is to instill fear, regardless of the means, may it be through the taking of lives or through a simple perceived threat.

Again, to my mind, we would do better focusing on the physical and emotional scars of a national trauma barely 24 hours old; and formulating, in our minds, the questions that must be answered, frankly and completely, for we, the people, to be satisfied that the explanations we are getting are genuine.

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  1. Manila Bay Watch

    Devils,

    Interesting take… not so sure that Gloria can stay beyond 2010, coz as you say, Filipinos might not take perpetuating herself in power sitting down – well, that’s my thought. (I’m not Cassandra heh!)

  2. deVilsadVc8

    if they can stomach the Garci scandal, and the extrajudicial killings, they can stomach her staying beyond 2010. after all, its for the economy’s good.

  3. baycas

    testimony…

    an email from a friend:

    It was as if I am loved both in heaven and hell. I’ve encountered several “near misses” in recent years (bombing in London and disasters in Jakarta) but this one in Makati tops ‘em all. I am very near the explosion site. If it would not have been due to my full bladder I could have been maimed or dead stiff by now. I was in a rush towards the rest room when suddenly a loud explosion bellowed. Forgot about my exploding urine bladder…went out, saw thick white smoke, people stampeding, noted some are bleeding, I ran with them…next thing I know I am already out the parking lot and racing to go home.

    As I take stock of my entire adult life in relation to my God, I knew He was still there for me to avoid the “devilish” invite from somebody down there. He was there for me in every catastrophe in my life. He was there for me despite of having me work overseas away from my loved ones and friends, despite of having me work a different job I was rigorously trained for and which I had envisioned myself to perform “since time immemorial,” and…despite of having me become…an old maid…

    But I am loved…I am truly blessed. Not a million thanks would suffice in showing how grateful I am to my maker. I love Him more than ever.

    Snapping out of my reflection…I’ll again leave you guys behind…after my most memorable vacation. I’m going abroad again. Rest assured, the Philippines is safe once again.

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