PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—Police authorities in Puerto Princesa on Sunday afternoon nabbed a suspect in the series of bombings in this city and the town of El Nido and are now investigating a group of Muslim leaders who police believe may be behind the atrocities.
The suspect was identified as Jheramae Hassan, a known leader of a Muslim community in southern Palawan whom authorities said is a daughter of a certain Hiya Hassan, an employee at the provincial capitol.
Mayor Edward Hagedorn, in an interview with the Inquirer, confirmed the arrest of Hassan following his meeting Sunday afternoon with local Muslim leaders after Hassan was reportedly identified by the other Muslim leaders as the alleged source of scare text messages sent to the bus station owners including Royale Transport where a bomb blast occurred Thursday.
“She is now under interrogation by the CIDG [Criminal Investigation and Detection Group] and we will know soon more about the perpetrators. So far, what I know is that she has admitted to being the source of the scare messages. This appears to be a breakthrough,” Hagedorn said.
One of the text messages allegedly sent from the mobile phone owned by Hassan was addressed to Hagedorn which said that the bombing was a warning for Hagedorn’s support for a faction of the Palawan’s Muslim community.
The message, which Hagedorn shared with the Inquirer, in part read: “Gud am sir. Nagsilbi po aral nato sa inyo nangyari sa El Nido kahapon kc mataas simpaty niyo po sa mga hudas na si (names withheld).”
A source within the Task Group Hunter formed by the Department of Interior and Local Government to investigate the Palawan bombings told the Inquirer that the elder Hassan was employed previously by former Governor Joel T. Reyes and is also identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Reyes is currently in hiding following the issuance of an arrest warrant for the murder of Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
The Task Group Hunter, prior to Hassan’s arrest, released a statement Sunday declaring that the bombings “are merely an upshot on the prevailing local political issues and to embarrass (sic) the peaceful state of the City of Puerto Princesa.”
Two bombs exploded almost simultaneously in a bus station in Puerto Princesa and in the town of El Nido last Maundy Thursday, injuring four people.
The blasts, according to police, were triggered remotely based on batteries and cellular phone parts collected from the debris.