The attacks further darkened a political atmosphere that was already tense as Estrada’s future teeters on the outcome of his trial, which resumes Tuesday. He is accused of massive corruption. Estrada’s press undersecretary, Mike Toledo, denied claims by opposition politicians Saturday that Estrada would declare a state of emergency or martial law.
Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado said police arrested one man who was carrying wires and acting suspiciously around one of the bomb sites. They have not revealed his identity.
Police suggested that the Abu Sayyaf, the smaller of two separatist Muslim groups in the southern Philippines, were to blame. The blasts came a day after Manila-area police were put on alert for holiday bombing attacks by the rebel group.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Maceda pointed his finger at communist rebels who have been fighting the government for more than 30 years. He said intelligence reports show the communist New People’s Army were planning numerous weekend attacks on rural power lines and stations.
The New People’s Army is the major left wing guerrilla group in the Philippines. It has had only informal communication with the Muslim groups.
Muslim Separatists Say They Didn’t Do It
The Philippines has long grappled with a multitude of religious and political conflicts as well as rising crime. In the south, two Muslim separatist guerrilla groups have been fighting for a separate Islamic nation.
The larger group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has been blamed for bombings in Manila in the past. But Eid Kabalu, a MILF spokesman, denied it carried out the bombings. He told DZRN radio in Manila that his group didn’t have the physical capacity to attack on the scale seen today.
The Abu Sayyaf is the more radical of the two groups. On Thursday, police arrested Abu Sayyaf spokesman Hector Janjalani in Manila. They said he had several grenades and sketches of potential targets in the city.
The government has been fighting the Abu Sayyaf rebels for 10 years, but the battle intensified this summer when the guerrillas captured scores of Western hostages in a southern area they control.
The rebels reportedly used the large ransom payments to rearm themselves. The military then launched a fierce assault on the rebels, who are still holding an American and a Filipino hostage.