Philippine authorities said they thwarted a plot to set off home-made explosive devices at Manila’s international airport and a nearby mall owned by Filipino billionaire Henry Sy, arresting three men who planned the attack to protest China’s assertiveness in the region.
The suspects will be arraigned today and may be charged with illegal possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit terrorism, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said at a briefing in Manila. The seized items were firecrackers so it is not classed as a terror attack, armed forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang said at a separate briefing in Manila.
“Whatever their agenda is, it can’t be avoided that there’s a destabilization plan” against President Benigno Aquino’s government, de Lima said. “The instruction of the president was to pursue the investigation and determine the organization’s actual purpose. We believe there are other entities involved.”
The three men are believed to be part of a group called the USAFFE, which describes itself as “defenders of the Filipino people” and an enemy of Chinese business interests in the Philippines, the justice department said in a statement today. The group also plotted to strafe Chinese-run establishments such as the Chinese Embassy and a building of DMCI Holdings Inc. (DMC), which has come under investigation by labor authorities for allegedly employing Chinese laborers without work permits.