The Cover-Up of the Glorietta Blast

THE Philippine National Police is insisting that the blast on Oct. 19 at the Glorietta 2 shopping center was the result of a build-up of methane gas in septic tanks in the basement of the building.

I still think that given that diesel fuel does not burn below a temperature of 220 degrees Celsius, that this theory remains far-fetched, despite FBI and Israeli experts supposedly saying they believe in the accidental explosion theory.

President Arroyo’s Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita statement saying he’s glad the findings are pointing in that direction, because otherwise as the head of an anti-terrorism council he would be held responsible for the blast, is beyond belief.

I still think an independent investigation has to be undertaken before any conclusions can be reached. Read what I wrote in my Manila Moods column last week:

THE INVESTIGATION into the huge explosion last week at the Glorietta 2 shopping center in Makati that left 11 people dead and 100 injured is seemingly being manipulated by the Arroyo administration to suit its needs.

On the day of the blast itself, police investigators told the media that traces of military-grade plastic explosives had been found at the scene. That seemed to indicate that the blast was a terrorist attack and not some sort of accident. On the second day after the blast, the media was reporting that it was a terror attack by a Muslim group, possibly the Rajah Solaiman Movement, after a phone caller claiming to be Ruben Omar Lavilla, the convert who speaks for the group, took responsibility for the blast. But leads on that path led to mobile phone numbers of members of the opposition in an apparent attempt to pin the blame of the attack on them.

After those leads fizzled out, weighed down by their own absurdity, investigators came up with the accident theory which claims that methane fumes from a basement sump pit that services bathrooms on upper floors of Glorietta 2, ignited and helped explode a nearby tank with 6,000 liters of diesel fuel used to run emergency power generators during brownouts. University of the Philippines chemistry professors have said that they seriously doubt this theory, pointing out that diesel does not ignite at temperatures below 220 degrees Celsius.

Ayala Land Inc. president Jaime Ayala says that the mall’s maintenance personnel had not reported anything abnormal in the basement of Glorietta 2 prior to the blast. Other news reports claim that repair work was being carried out in the basement at the time of the blast, and that Ayala is refusing to admit that. But I find it hard to believe that a blue-chip company like Ayala would take any risks with their property. I have been a regular visitor to Ayala-owned malls, and from what I have seen they spare no expense in building and maintaining their malls.

Detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Thursday that he has several witnesses being kept in a safe house who are ready to testify that the blast was the brainchild of National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. It would not surprise me if the Arroyo administration was behind this blast. After all, with all of the negative attention the administration has been getting with the kickback-bloated ZTE broadband deal and the disbursement of P120 million by Malacañang Palace to congressmen and provincial officials, something was needed to take away the heat from the corrupt practices of the Palace.

All the parts of the whole Glorietta complex have supposedly been closed down to the public now by Makati City officials, who want to make sure the rest of the complex is safe. Let us wait to hear what Trillanes’ witnesses have to say about this blast. Diesel fuel blowing up on its own just doesn’t cut it in my book.