A dissenting opinion on the Glorietta “bombing”

This is probably the 3rd or 4th time I’ve edited this post. I started it just hours after the initial bombing, sometime after ANC showed those vids and pix of the blast area, and before the C4 angle was foisted by the country’s security forces with the “discovery” of RDX in the blast site. In fact I was thinking of not posting a “Mentat” version of my thoughts on the bombing because, hell, who am I to question the supposed experts, even if my Training, with information based on the fresh pix and vids of the damage site, were loudly saying otherwise?

Until a chance check with Inquirer.net showed that, now, the bloody PNP is checking the “accident” angle, after finding out that the blast did not originate on the ground floor but in G’s basement (click here for the article and hope it’s still online).

I don’t claim to be an explosives expert. What I do know is how explosions act, the physics of them. And I’ve been an analyst long enough to see the results of certain explosions, their “signature”, so to speak. And the first vids and pix of the damage site, as shown by ANC, told me it wasn’t an explosive that did it.

My first clue was the outside vids of the G2 door area. There was a big hole right beside the door (which roughly corresponded to the bar-resto beside the Starbucks), and a couple of cars that, as the news reports said, were under lots of rubble. The ANC vids showed the cars, and they were not totalled. They were damaged, certainly, but only through having lots of wood, plastic, concrete and steel rain down on them. But the cars were undisturbed and relatively intact.

Also, the camera showed that the facade of nearby Park Square 2 was relatively undamaged, too. So was the walkway connecting the second floors of G2 and PS2, which ANC anchors kept saying as “destroyed” despite the fact that the camera of the vid was clearly showing it was relatively intact.

Early pix and vids of the inside of Glorietta showed lots of damage, of course. Piles and piles of rubble could be seen everywhere and it looked like part of one escalator was gone. Yet, if one looked at the pix and vids long enough, one would notice that the structural supports of G – those long, thick columns – were still whole. And none of the floors had caved in.

There was a hole shown in one pic, but here is where the secondhand visual evidence gets confusing. ANC (or was that Inquirer.net?) mentioned something about a hole through the floors of G2. The hole shown in the pic appeared almost neatly round, too, in the pic. A later outside camera recording of G2’s roof showed that the explosion took one of the minaret-like roofs out whole; the vid showed it lying with its point on the roof. I didn’t notice any damage from outside of that roof aside from the blown-away cone.

It would seem to me that the damage inside G was not the direct cause of a tremendous force normally associated with high explosives, most especially C4. Rather, it was damage caused by overpressure effects.

How does an explosion work? High explosives release an amount of kinetic force into the surrounding environment proportional to the chemical makeup of the explosive and the amount detonated. In the case of places with an atmosphere like, say, most places on Earth, that would mean that the energy liberated by the explosives gets transferred to the air around it. Air is displaced, pushed away by the power of the explosion.

In most cases, this, perhaps more than shrapnel, is what kills people caught in an explosion and damages buildings. Since the explosion is pushing away the air at high velocity, this air – now actually a wall of solid kinetic force, traveling at supersonic speed in most cases – when it hits any obstacle will try to push against that obstacle.

When it meets an obstacle, that force can do several things. If there is enough force, like in a typical terrorist or demolitions bomb, most obstacles in the immediate blast area will be obliterated. The force is too much for the structure and it collapses, sometimes vaporized outright like in the immediate crash “cone” of the Pentagon during 9/11.

Sometimes, the explosion actually bounces back. And this is where it gets really deadly. The force has met an obstacle it cannot breach, but there is still enough energy in the explosion. It then looks for a place to dissipate, kind of like when your teapot is boiling. Think of the whistling air at boiling point as the explosion coming out of that one, small opening… kind of like that blasted-off cone lying on G2’s roof, eh?

A case in point of what really high explosives can do is the bombing of the Federal building in Oklahoma, a few years before 9/11. The sheer power of so much C4 in the van parked in front of the building destroyed enough of the supporting columns of the building’s frontage that its secondary effect was to cause the later collapse.

Which is why I felt incredulous when the C4 or high explosives angle was, actually quite early, broached by our security forces. The damage inside G2 just didn’t fit with the signature of such that I knew of, and I’ve seen so many pix and vids of what high explosives can do. If you’ve seen what it does to a relatively open-air area like the markets and town squares of Iraq, can you imagine how much damage a “terrorist” grade explosive composed of C4 would have done to the enclosed space that was Glorietta? And that place had enough restos to add their LPG tanks to the carnage, to say nothing of “everyday” stuff that is actually either volatile or inflammable, like flour, picture processing chemicals, some detergents and health products that were available in that wing of Glorietta.

And there was the time. And the “target” location. If you were an honest-to-the-devil terrorist, why would you bomb Glorietta 2? A terrorist, the post-9/11 type, also wants to make a point like any of the “classical” terrorists who hijacked planes and took hostages. But the new terrorist wants to make his point by killing people. Lots of them. The younger the better, since we “Westernized” countries go weak in the knees when children and young men and women die. Glorietta has four wings; which one has lots of young people at 1 in the afternoon on a Friday?

Like I told my friends, the only way this could be done by an explosive, and C4 no less, is if so little was used that it just caused a loud bang. The “bang” would have caused air displacement similar to a Fuel Air Explosive. An FAE causes damage through the ignition of high-octane fuel in the immediate air of its target. This is useful versus enemy forward bases and firebases, which are usually makeshift appointments and where large masses of people are gathered because the rapidly-displaced air of exploding fuel acts like a battering ram on anything without the consistency of tank armor.

And when I was perusing the reports of the bombing’s aftermaths, of the casualty lists, most died through shrapnel and burn damage. Shrapnel would have been a-plenty in the enclosed space that was Glorietta. So much glass, so much low-tensile steel, so much wood. Imagine what a shock wave of air, trying hard to find a place to dissipate in an enclosed space, would do to those? The two unfortunates who died through a direct effect of the explosion were a different story of course.

Does this downplay what happened in G? Of course not. Lives were lost. I had at least one dear friend who nearly did, too; thank God she “only” got out of it with “nothing” worse than a 4-stitch wound. But the casualty list topped a hundred. It could have been worse, but what happened was horrible already, certainly despicable.

Which is why it behooves our security forces – the supposed specialists for this kind of thing – to tackle this incident properly. Fuck the cost to commerce: lives were lost. Buildings can be repaired, investments recouped. This is after all, the financial heart of the Philippines. Unless a sustained bombing campaign is done there, do you think people and stores won’t be back at G? I was at nearby Greenbelt this Sunday, and although there were fewer people, it wasn’t a ghost town, either. And there was just so many people in Gateway last Saturday.

No, LIVES were lost. People are scared. Wait, check that: people are outraged, especially considering that young people were mostly the victims. My brother lost a colleague to that horrible blast. I don’t think people in this country get scared after a bombing; Pinoys get angry. We want answers. Good, solid ones. And it behooves our security forces to get the right answers to us.

Instead of making a thorough investigation first, what do they say not 12 hours after the explosion? “It was an explosive. We found traces of a component found in C4.” Sure, dudes. And a doctor in supposedly elite PGH said my best friend had blood leukemia, when a check with other docs showed she was just suffering from low platelet count due to lack of sleep.

That, to me, was irresponsible, captured neatly when ANC interviewed over the phone, not a few hours after the incident, the (and get this) chief of intelligence of the Makati police. The twit kept saying “… the bomb blast…”, which prompted the ANC anchors to ask him, “so, sir, you have confirmed it is a bomb?” To which said chief of Makati Police intelligence then says, “no, no, we haven’t confirmed it yet.”

Ay putangina, di ba? Can you imagine how that must have felt to so many worried people?

The Sedmak Conundrum: Be careful of the Truths you accept, for they will determine the Consequences you must face.

If it was bomb, then there are several really… frightening Truths attendant to it. But if it had been done thoroughly, with the meticulous attention to detail this horrid incident deserves – ELEVEN LIVES were lost, goddammit! And HUNDREDS were wounded! – then at least we would be confident.

And now they say, oh, whoops, it just might be an accident.

This after Trillianes – takes a terrorist to know one, eh, “senator”? – accuses the government of causing it. Much as I hate that criminal, he simply voiced out the thinking among so many of our public. Pinoys don’t get scared over things like this. We’re scrappers, and many of ours either died, or were sent to hospitals. You do not do that to Pinoys. You court the whirlwind when you do that.

I said during a meeting that evening that it sounded like 1971 all over again. That would have been the only explanation, given the context of the explosion and its (to me) weird “signature.” To this moment, I can’t accept it was C4 or any hard explosive. Unless so little was used, enough just to scare people. Unfortunately, they detonated explosives in a mall.

With this latest development, what are people to think, then? Are the nation’s security forces now backtracking in the face of so many accusations that it was a ploy to deter public attention from all the political scandals going on?

Do you homework, for God’s sake. Eleven people lost their lives. One of them was a husband waiting for the wife he was going to take out on a date. That one who was my brother’s colleague was even harder because she was the breadwinner for her family in far off Nueva Ecija. One of my dear friends suffered bad wounds from that incident. If it was an accident, then people who were responsible for this negligence that cost so many lives – one lost is too many – must be held accountable. If it was an explosion caused through design, then the bastards responsible for those deaths and injuries deserve to rot in the deepest, dankest corner of hell.

But, dear God, PNP, do your fucking homework first. An accident would have scared the people less and left your mistress no worse for the wear. It could even have humiliated that honest-to-the-devil terrorist who hides behind the seal of the Senate.

A man-made explosion is horrible. It adds an extra dimension to the pain and the loss. And it makes for a much more uncomfortable information context, since so many allusions to Martial Law had already been made with this administration.

Do right this time, ok, PNP? You owe it to the hundreds of injured, and the eleven souls who were lost that fateful afternoon.

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2 Responses to A dissenting opinion on the Glorietta “bombing”

  1. commiedyan says:

    I’, like you, was one of the first to think it really was an accidental gas blast. My theory is that the first test showing a positive result for rdx was a false positive.



  2. phoenixeyrie says:

    I see not everyone immediately thought of it as an explosion by design.

    ANC was fast in getting cameras on the scene, not a few minutes after the blasts, so there was good footage of the damage before anyone else could disturb it. The damage “signature”, to me, was off for a “terrorist-grade” explosive.

    I heard even the American and Australian investigators ruled out explosives as the cause. Some people still insist it was, though.

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