The city police arrested on Thursday a Pakistani national that they described as a suspected bomb maker who has been under intelligence surveillance.
The foreign national was identified as Haroon Basher, a Pakistani who has apparently been living in the city for the last seven years and has a Filipina girlfriend and several local friends.
Basher was arrested in his rented house in Atis Road, Dacillo Compound, Barangay San Jose by members of the city police who had with them a search warrant issued by a local judge.
Found inside the residence of Basher, according to the police, were two improvised explosives and a .45 caliber pistol. The two explosives were apparently small enough that EOD personnel decided to explode them right away, one along the roadside in front of the house and one at the backyard.
Authorities have declined to be interviewed for additional details of the arrest and the identity of Basher.
Before he was arrested and whisked away by the police, Basher, who can speak fluent Tagalog, told reporters in an interview he is not a terrorist.
“I don’t know about anything. Kahit anong gawin mo sa akin, i-check mo lang my back report or whatever, it’s cleaned up na. I have no problem, I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know. I just go to drink only… lasinggero ako, kanina pa nag-inom ako,” Basher said.
His former live-in partner claimed he makes a living doing artesian wells.
“Noong March pinapadalhan ko pa yan ng pera. Tapos may kinakasama siya. Baka nagalit yong mga magulang noon. Kasi yan mahilig uminom. Ginawaan yan siya ng kuwento ng mga magulang or mga kapit bahay niya. Yan ay gumagawa ng bomba o mga poso, hindi bomba na sumasabog,” said Marielle Jaranilla, who claimed she is the Pakistani’s former girlfriend.
Jaranilla also said she has a child with Basher. She said the Pakistani national used to run a small money lending business but went bankrupt.
“Yan ay tatay ng anak ko, hindi niya yan magagawa. Last year lang kami naghiwalay. Noong iniwanan siya ng isa niyang kinakasama, humingi yan siya ng tulong sa akin financially. Tinulungan ko naman, bawat buwan pinapadalhan ko. Binilihan ko pa ng motor sabi ko magdaing-daing siya para tulungan ang sarili niya, kaya lang meron siyang bisyo kasi nga mahilig siya uminom — yon lang naman,” she said.
Jaranilla insisted “he is not a bad person” and not a bomb maker like he is being accused of now.
She said Basher, 29, already wants to return to Pakistan but has no money to buy himself tickets so he could go home from Palawan.
“Wala yang makain, payat na payat. Walang pera pambili ng pagkain. Sino magfi-finance ng paggawa niya ng bomba? Bakit siya gagawa ng bomba? Ang bomba na ginagawa niyan ay bomba ng tubig, hindi bomba na pampasabog,” she added.
“Nagpapautang kasi yan sila dati dyan. Yan ay may asawa talaga — noong umpisa marami yan talaga siyang pera kaya lang na-mishandle niya that time dahil napaka-bata niya noon. Sana mabigyan siya ng justice kasi napaka naman ng bintang sa kanya. Hindi nga niya mapakain ang sarili niya, gagawa pa siya ng bomba?” Jaranilla said.
She alleged Basher has no passport because it was stolen from him.
The police operation was carried out by joint local law enforcement agencies based on an August 6 search warrant issued by Executive Judge Angelo Arizala of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for possible violation of Republic Act 9516, or the law covering possession of illegal explosives.
The police also invited for questioning a certain Roger Torres who owned the house being rented by Basher.
“Dito sya naka-upa pansamantala lang, kulang-kulang isang buwan na,” Torres told reporters.
Torres said he and Basher had become friends.
“Nakiusap sya sa akin naawa kami walang kamag-anak. Napalapit na siya sa amin naging kaibigan na rin namin syempre hindi namin alam na gagawa ng ganoon,” he said.
(With reports from Arphil Ballarta, Ruth Rodriguez, and Celeste Anna Formoso)