The Meiring Mystery:
“Affront to Philippine sovereignty”
Carolyn O. Arguillas /
MindaNews / 30 May 2003
DAVAO CITY-- Exactly a year ago today, May 30, a fuming Mayor
Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at the “arrogant” agents of the US
Federal Bureau of Investigation for having spirited out of the
hospital an American national who nearly lost his life when
explosives he owned went off inside his room in a budget hotel on
“An affront to Philippine sovereignty,” was how Duterte
described to the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) what the
FBI agents did in getting Michael Terrence Meiring out.
Who was Michael Terence Meiring and why did the FBI get him
out? How did he manage to leave the county despite warrants of
arrest and hold departure orders? Why hasn't he been returned to
this city to face charges of illegal possession of explosives and
reckless imprudence despite promises last year by the police and
the National Bureau of Investigation? Why doesn’t the Special
Anti-Terrorist Unit want to say exactly what kind of explosives
went off in Meiring’s hotel room?
That explosion on May 16 last year in Meiring’s hotel room
initially triggered panic among residents who thought bombers
elsewhere in Mindanao had, indeed, arrived in the city.
Less than a month earlier, on April 21 in General Santos City,
a bomb explosion killed 15 persons and injured 55 others. Several
other bomb explosions had occurred in Cotabato, General Santos and
even Manila, a number of them claimed by the shadowy Indigenous
peoples Federal Army which started making its presence felt in
late December 2001, the Christian Lumad Nationalist Army which
claimed responsibility for a bomb scare in Cotabato City on March
21, the Abu Muslim and Al Gzahi episodes in GenSan.
For two consecutive days, on May 14 and May 15, bomb threats
forced the early adjournment of the regular session of the Davao
City legislature and sent employees of around nine government
agencies in the Council building scampering for safety.
No bomb was found on both days.
No bomb threat was phoned in on May 16 but a bomb exploded,
followed by fire at Room 305 of the Evergreen Hotel. The blast
nearly killed the owner of the explosives, a naturalized American
citizen named Michael Terence Meiring, a frequent guest over the
last 10 years in the hotel and whose latest check-in after nearly
a year of absence, was on December 14, 2001.
The badly injured Meiring, his legs mangled by the explosion,
had claimed to hotel staff that he was into gold and treasure
hunting, and was a resident of 381 Snidee Ridge Trail, Calimino,
Los Angeles, California (other documents list the address as 381
Smoke Ridge Trail, Calimesa, California).
The circumstances behind Meiring’s sudden departure from the
hospital, inspite of his serious condition, raised questions about
his real identity. A number of officials in ‘for background only’
interviews, speculated Meiring may have been an agent of the US
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Meiring himself, according to those who had spent some time
with him, refered to himself as CIA although he would qualify that
to mean “Christ In Action.”
According to someone who knew him up close but does not want to
be named because “grabe ang connection nya” (Meiring is
well-connected), Meiring would often brag of his plans to set up
schools and hospitals for the poor in Mindanao.
What Meiring’s actual purpose was in Mindanao for about six to
eight months a year in the last decade, no one can say for sure.
But he would have been simply lumped among “treasure hunters”
hunting for Yamashita’s treasures and forgotten, if he had not
been spirited out of a hospital room here three days after the May
16 explosion “without the knowledge of any police, military or
government official in the city or region,” as Duterte described
it to the RPOC meeting on May 30.
The US Embassy’s Public Affairs section quickly issued a
denial. In a press statement on May 31, just a day after Duterte
spoke at the RPOC, it categorically denied that the FBI had any
role in Mr. Meiring’s “departure.” The five-paragraph press
statement said FBI explosives experts traveled to Davao
“accompanied by PNP Foreign Liaison Officer Col. David Umbao” and
that prior to visiting the site of the explosion, “the FBI
officers were given permission by the PNP officer in charge.
They consulted with the PNP Davao crime scene investigators about
what was considered a possible terrorist act involving injury to
an American citizen. The FBI officials then returned to Manila the
It added that while in Davao, “all FBI activities were fully
coordinated with the Davao PNP. The FBI officials who visited
Davao were accompanied by the appropriate PNP liaison officer. The
FBI officials returned to Manila prior to the time Mr. Meiring
left the hospital.”
But the mayor, also the RPOC chair, was categorical about the
“arrogant” FBI agents who got Meiring out of the hospital. He told
the RPOC meeting that initially, when he heard the news of
Meiring's sudden departure for Manila, he thought this was with
clearance from the highest levels of government.
He said he was not demanding that he be personally informed
about these operations as these could be matters of national
security but stressed that FBI agents should have coordinated with
appropriate government agencies like the National Intelligence
Coordinating Agency; Chief Supt. Eduardo Matillano, then the PNP
regional chief here and the heads of other law enforcement
agencies in the region.
Duterte said that when the FBI agents went to the Davao Doctors
Hospital where Meiring was confined, they were initially accosted
by security guards but the FBI agents merely flashed their metal
badges and proceeded to take Meiring.
"They think and act nonchalant as if they own the place…I don't
give a sh_t who they are. Those metal badges do not have any value
to me. If they (FBI agents) do that again, I will have them eat
(their badges)," an irked Duterte said.
Police detailed near Meiring's hospital room were also barred
entry by the FBI agents, he said.
He warned he will arrest FBI agents if they return and operate
here again without giving "fundamental courtesy" to local
"I just would like now to make it clear, to inform .. the US
ambassador and some morons there in the national government who
are handling these FBI agents that you better not do that again
here or I will have you arrested…” Duterte said.
Duterte stressed in his speech that he was not only addressing
the RPOC but the national leadership and the US ambassador to the
Philippines, Francis Ricciardone.
“Sovereignty does not come cheap… Please do not forget our
national sovereignty. It should be enhanced always by the dignity
of the Filipino people,” he said. (Tomorrow: The