No martial law — DILG

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — INTERIOR Secretary Ronaldo Puno assured this amid jitters of an impending military rule and the suspension of civil rights following the blast Tuesday night at the Batasang Pambansa which killed Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar and three others.

President Arroyo tapped Defense chief Gilbert Teodoro to head the task force that will investigate the blast. The members of the body include Justice chief Agnes Devanadera, Puno, Secretary Jess Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon Jr., National Bureau of Investigation Director Nestor Mantaring, Social Welfare head and Philippine Information Agency head, Secretary Dodie Limcauco.

Malacañang also put up a P5-million reward for anybody who could give information that could result in the arrest of the bombers. The public has been urged to call the PNP Hotline 0917 78475757.

Cellphone used to detonate bomb found

Meanwhile, National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Geary Barias yesterday said the Metro Manila police have recovered a cellphone from the Batasan Pambansa blast site that was possibly used as a bomb detonator.

Barias said the bombers’ intended target was Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar, who died in the explosion.

PNP chief Director General Razon Jr. said they are verifying a report that the Abu Sayyaf has claimed responsibility for the bomb explosion. A man identifying himself as one “Abdul Mushaf” sent text messages claiming his group was responsible for the explosion that killed three people, including Rep. Akbar, and wounded several others.

“We are checking the claim and are not taking it hook, line and sinker. In the first place, we checked our list and there is no Abdul Mushaf in the list of known Abu Sayyaf members,” Razon said.

Reactions

British Ambassador to Manila Peter Beckingham said the United Kingdom is looking forward to a speedy but thorough investigation of the Batasan explosion and condoled with the families of those killed in the incident. The United States, meanwhile, offered to assist in the probe.

Senator Loren Legarda said her “sympathy and prayers go to the victims of this most tragic incident.”

“We will not be cowed by such acts of violence like the truly disturbing explosion at the House of Representatives,” said Loren.

“The perpetrators of this cowardly act must be immediately brought to justice.”

In a statement, Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos, League of Cities of the Philippines president, said the use of such violence is an act denounced by the whole nation that can never be tolerated under the rule of law.

The United Opposition (UNO), headed by Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay, stressed that it does not want to add to the confusion by speculating on the motive behind the bombing.

“We also hope that this tragic event will not again be used as a platform to push a besieged Congress into supporting measures that could lead to a curtailment of civil liberties or appeal for a ceasefire in the on-going investigations into the Malacañang bribery scandal and the anomalous ZTE deal,” the UNO statement said.

The same sentiments were aired by Vice President Noli de Castro.