May 28, 2002, The Manila Times, Top US security officials took Davao blast victim, by William Depasupil, Reporter and Dorian Zume-Sicat, Correspondent, Tuesday,
If Michael Meriing was just another treasure hunter, why did top US security officials scramble to take him out of Davao City and airlift him to the United States?
In an exclusive interview with The Manila Times, Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials yesterday admitted that officials from the US National Security Council, which falls under the State Department, flew Meriing from Davao to Manila, for treatment of serious wounds suffered during an explosion in his Evergreen Hotel suite on May 16.
But one of Meriing’s closest friends, an American, claimed the surgeon-treasure hunter had been flown to his family in San Diego, California. The American source, a former Peace Corps worker, said he stayed with Meriing until the day he left the Philippines, "on an unmanifested flight."
The same source told The Times that Meriing’s escorts came from the US National Security Agency, which falls under that country's Department of Defense. The NSA, according to official US Web sites, "coordinates, directs, and performs highly specialized activities to protect US information systems and produce foreign intelligence information."
BI Deputy Commissioner Daniel Cueto, in an interview, quoted Col. Lino Calingasan, Bureau of Immigration (BI) intelligence chief, as saying Meriing was taken by USNSC.
The American’s present location remains unknown, Cueto added. Calingasan, he said, quoted US officials as saying Meriing was still in Manila.
Although Davao reports initially said Federal Bureau of Investigation officials rushed to Meriing's side after the blast, BI officials claimed the men were actually from the USNSC.
According to Calingasan, Meriing was being investigated by Davao police for his possible link to a series of bombings in Mindanao when the USNSC entered the picture.
But Cueto stressed that the police investigation later showed, "There was no direct evidence nor any conclusive finding linking him (Meriing) to the bombing or to any terrorist activities."
He described the incident as a simple police case, saying the treasure hunter had no derogatory records nor had violated any immigration laws.
"He has not overstayed and all his travel paper are in order. The BI has no basis questioning or detaining him," Cueto pointed out.
Cueto said BI records show Meiring has not yet left the country.
But Meiring's friend told The Times the American was taken out of the country, just two days after being admitted at the Makati Medical Center.
Both of the American's legs were were amputated at the knee because of irreparable compound fractures. He suffered 1st to 3rd degree burns to 40 percent of his body.
Investigators told The Times the blast was caused by sparks igniting yellow powder and a substance called Super Bristal 2000, a non-explosive demolition catalyst. Police were preparing charges against Meiring for illegal possession of explosives and arson.
But the investigation has come up to a stone wall. One intelligence source told this writer, "Even with what we know — the kind of thing that would normally implicate him (Mering) — everything is still inconclusive. We can't prove that he actually had explosives in his room and we can't prove that he accidentally ignited them. But we do know that he had possession of explosives at one point. That we do know."