Anti-China Group Planned Manila Attacks09/02 06:19
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- Philippine authorities said Tuesday that they
arrested three men linked to a group that was planning to set off firebombs at
Manila's international airport and a major mall in the city to protest the
government's alleged "soft" stance in its territorial dispute with China. The
military, however, downplayed the planned attacks, saying the men were just
The leader of the group and two other men were arrested Monday with four
homemade incendiary devices found inside their car at one of the airport's
parking lots, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.
Government agents, who were tipped off by an informant, said the men planned
to set off one bomb at a parking lot restroom and the three others inside one
of the country's biggest shopping malls, which has ethnic Chinese owners.
The territorial dispute between the Philippines and China has been simmering
for years and Manila has occasionally filed diplomatic protests against alleged
Chinese incursions into areas it claims.
The Philippines filed a case last year with the Arbitral Tribunal in The
Hague, questioning China's massive territorial claims over nearly the entire
South China Sea, angering Beijing.
De Lima said the "utra-rightist" but "misguided group" planned also on
Monday the "strafing" of the Chinese Embassy in Manila and a building owned by
a company operating a power plant that allegedly employed Chinese workers
"They are not content, they are frustrated over the stance of the government
against China, which to them is very soft," de Lima said. "They want this
administration to espouse a tougher stance in its dispute with China."
The Chinese Embassy urged the Philippine government take "effective
measures" to ensure the security of its facilities and prevent attacks against
its diplomatic staff and citizens in the country. "We ask the government to
conduct a thorough investigation into this case," the embassy said in a
De Lima said the men would be charged with possession of explosive
materials, a non-bailable offense. The Justice Department also was considering
filing conspiracy to commit terrorism charges against the three, she said,
adding that there were other members of the group and the investigation was
She said the group considers China and wealthy ethnic Chinese like the
owners of the mall as enemies.
Military Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang played down incident and
described the arrested men as "pranksters" who wanted to get public attention.
"I don't think it's a terror attack because these were just firecrackers,"
Catapang told reporters.
Rommel Vallejo, head of the Anti-Organized Crime Division of the National
Bureau of Investigation, said each of the firebombs consisted of a firecracker
as big as the palm of a hand with an eight-second wick taped to a plastic
bottle containing gasoline.
De Lima said the blast from one of the devices could create a huge fireball
and send debris flying 5-10 meters (15-30 feet) away, which could cause fatal