Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews / 31 May 2003
DAVAO CITY — Michael Terence Meiring, 67, checked in at the Evergreen Hotel on December 14, 2001, carrying two heavy metal boxes.
According to affidavits of hotel employees, Zander Bautista, Gerry Kay Magdadaro and Emmanuel Ticson, Meiring would repeatedly tell them that in cleaning his room, they can touch anything but the two padlocked metal boxes which allegedly contained assorted documents.
Magdadaro also recalled that Meiring told him that in cleaning his room he should use only a “clean rag without any chemical materials.”
What the metal boxes contained no one knew, until May 16, 2002, when Meiring nearly lost his life during an explosion inside his hotel room. In their affidavits, Police Senior Inspector Sabino Vengco and PO3 German Labandero, Explosives Ordnance Disposal team leader and post-blast investigator, respectively, of the Special Anti Terrorist Unit (SATU), said the explosion originated inside one of the metal boxes in Meiring’s room.
The investigators also recovered “used improvised electric blasting cap with burned leg wires, cut-off tiny pieces of leg wires and bits of pieces of metallic fragments as cap shell.”
Initial reports said the explosion was caused by dynamites but on May 23, SPO3 Miguel Vicente, Jr. of the Southern Mindanao police’s EOD team said the blast was caused by an improvised explosive device which was described as “powerful” and “high-tech.”
Vicente was quoted in newspaper reports as saying the device contained ammonium nitrate, electronic apparatus, and other explosive materials which can cause heavy explosion and damage. He theorized that the cover of the other box could have hit the box that contained the explosive and triggered the explosion. “Meiring could have put the explosive inside the box to hurt anyone who was planning to open it,” Vicente said. He added the bomb could have been used by Meiring in his treasure-hunting activities.
Charges of illegal possession of ammunition and reckless imprudence resulting to damage to property were filed against him on May 22 but Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Meiring should be charged for arson, too, for burning a portion of the hotel.
The other box contained partially burned documents that would unravel partly the mystery behind the man who called himself Michael Terence Meiring.
Among the documents found in the box was an “officer” identification card of the Moro National Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Armed Forces, bearing Meiring’s name, photograph and September 17, 1935 as date of birth.
The Manila Times in a three-part report on May 29-31 last year said Meiring “had close ties to well-placed government authorities in southern Mindanao, national government officials and Philippine National Police…. former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Hashim Salamat and suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leader Father Navarro. Meiring also has close ties with `shady people’ like MNLF Commander Tony Nasa and others in Cotabato who acted as `front men’ for his dealings with the Abu Sayyaf.”
Meiring, according to a source who knew him up close but requested not to be named because “grabe ang connection nyan” (he is well-connected), had visitors from various sectors, rich and poor, congressmen, councilors, a governor, military and once, the source said, Meiring complained he was duped by a police general.
The source said Meiring’s predictions “always came true” such as the peso-dollar rate reaching this and that level. But what the source cannot forget was when Meiring said in January last year that with the Americans coming for Balikatan, sporadic bombings were to be expected and there would be a “big one.” When the source asked Meiring if the General Santos City bombing on April 21 last year was the ‘big one,” Meiring reportedly said no. Fifteen persons were killed and 55 others were injured in that blast.
The Mindanao Times report a day after the blast quoted Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as saying the police investigated Meiring the Friday before (May 10), after the intelligence community found him “highly suspicious” for bringing in boxes in and out of the hotel.
Meiring was reported to have allowed local policemen to search his room but refused to let them enter his bathroom as it was supposedly “out of order.”
When Duterte narrated to the Regional Peace and Order Council meeting on May 31 last year about how Meiring was taken out of the hospital by “arrogant” agents of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, he said US authorities appeared interested in pursuing Meiring’s case after
Philippine police authorities uncovered several dubious US Federal bank notes in his possession when they checked his room and belongings after the blast.
The complaint sheet filed by the chief of the Investigation Section on May 22 last year, listed seven exhibits — record of event, original copy of photos showing the damages in the room, improvised electric blasting cap with burn (sic) leg wires, cut-off tiny pieces of leg wires and bits of pieces of metallic fragments as cap shell, photocopies of three partially burned documents, photocopy of Meiring’s MNLF identification card and chemistry report from the PNP Crime Laboratory.
he documents submitted gave credence to Meiring’s claims as “treasure hunter:” a three-page “International non-circumvention, nondisclosure confidentiality and working agreement” on the “sale and investigation of deposits of gold in bar form, and quantities of nikel (sic) babbit” requiring an advance of $1.075 million from the buyers’ group, with Meiring representing the sellers; a February 14, 1998 letter from a Derek S. Fawell of UK, apparently involved in “underwater survey and recovery.” Fawell’s letter started with “further to our discussions relating to the bomb disposal problem, I confirm that we can supply two experts willing to handle the job” and a two-page 1999 “Firm offer to sell up to 500 metric tons” starting with a “trial of 1,240 kilos” of gold bars in a bank in Butuan City. The offer was from Meiring but the two-page document bore no addressee.
The Manila Times report last year noted that “charred US federal bank notes were found in his exploded hotel room, with a three-week old fax from Derek S. Fawell, of 3 Glenhurst Avenue, Yorkshire, England that read: ‘With regard to your ordnance disposal problem, I have talked with our experts. They will be at your location upon the time frame that you instruct. The device that you have described is highly volatile and must be dealt with quite delicately.’”
The list of exhibits and the case folder in court did not include federal notes whether dubious or real and did not include, too, the supposed three-week old faxed message.
Meiring used in his communications his company name, Parousia International Trading Co. Inc. using the Evergreen hotel phone and fax numbers.
A check with the Mindanao Business Council showed there is no Parousia or Meiring in its directory. The firm, however, is listed under “metals” in http://www.negosyopark.com, a Davao City-based business portal site.
Mines and Geo-sciences regional chief Ma Luisa Jacinto said Parousia had no permit and no accreditation as mineral trader. Jacinto said that if Meiring had secured a permit and accreditation in the national office, they would have been sent copies.
Parousia is a Greek word that literally means “being present.” In Christian theology, it is another term for “second coming.”