I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Not a bomb?

That’s what the PNP says. Most commentators, predictably enough, disagree. Many prefer Ayala’s explanation that a bomb was used. That whole line of thought is based on this bad boy.

RDX. Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine. It’s the explosive that comprises at least 91% of C-4. According to many pundits – and experts – it’s presence at the blast site is proof positive that C-4 was used. However, half a minute’s cruising on the web reveals that making things go boom isn’t the only use for RDX. Apparently, it has industrial usage as well. Which ought to give people pause, truth be told.

I’m no expert, see? But C-4 has about 8% of other things in the mix, including a tagging chemical such as 2,3-dimethyl-2,3-dinitrobutane or DMDNB. Now taggants like DMDNB aren’t necessary for the explosion. It’s put there simply to survive the blast and let investigators know that C-4 was used, and where it came from. Because C-4 is a highly restricted explosive, and its manufacture is a closely guarded process (the US and the UK make it differently even) it is practically inconceivable for there to be cakes of C-4 floating around without taggants. It follows that the absence of a taggant is a pretty strong argument against the use of C-4. Couple that with the fact the RDX can be used for purposes other than blowing things up … well, it adds up to not dismissing the PNP report out of hand.

Quite the contrary, I should say. Let’s not blindly assume that the PNP was correct, fine. But let’s also not let our jaundiced view of the PNP – and the government – blind us to the necessity of taking Ayala to task as well. What was RDX doing in their basement? What use was RDX being put to in a mall that receives thousands of people on a daily basis. For Ayala to just stubbornly maintain that it was a bomb and not negligence is tantamount to an unsubstantiated general denial that, in court, doesn’t hold water at all.

If Ayala wants to prove the PNP wrong, it should eliminate all possible alternative explanations for the presence of RDX in its basement. But so far, no one has asked this of Ayala. Not the crusading media, not the NGOs, not the human rights groups who have so far remained silent about this fatal breach of respect for the right of people to life. I have to wonder: is it because government is such an easy target that people forget that big corporations can be at fault as well?

It’s called corporate responsibility folks. And it’s not limited to throwing money at the relatives of the dead and injured.


Filed under: journalism, musings, , , ,

20 Responses

  1. cvj says:

    What are the other industrial uses of Cyclotrimethylenetrinitramine?

  2. rom says:

    cvj:i’ve tried to find what these industrial uses are, but i guess i’m not as good at googling as i thought. although the mention of ‘other industrial uses’ abounds (by sources such as the wikipedia), i am constrained to believe that these industrial uses have to fall under the hard-core insider category; information not available to the general public.

  3. tonio says:

    so the giant fart theory wins?

  4. tonio says:

    hmm… i’ve done a bit of my own searching.

    PETN and RDX make the plastic explosive Semtex. PETN of course is what your plastic soda bottles are made of.

    RDX is the trigger explosive for nuclear explosives, because of its rapid detonation rate. This also makes it excellent as a propellant for mortar shells and other munitions, as well as fuel for solid rocket boosters.

    RDX is carcinogenic and toxic to humans. US occupational safety agencies have set the maximum lifetime safe limit of exposure to RDX at .0015 – .002 mg/L for a 70kg adult.

    Soooo…. i don’t know what the other commercial uses for RDX are, but if it’s in toothpaste, as was claimed by some of our local experts, then i ain’t brushing my teeth with commercial toothpaste anymore.

  5. cvj says:

    Rom, i asked because i also couldn’t find the other uses of RDX. My understanding is that the other industrial uses also has something to do with blowing things up.

    One compelling argument put forward by the PNP and emphasized by DJB is that they found no ‘crater’ which is a defining characteristic of high explosives. I doubt though that the PNP has an interest to really look for it.

  6. tonio says:

    oh, there is a small amount of RDX (or HMX, its less toxic and yet even more powerful cousin) in the propellant mixture used to deploy car airbags.

    RDX is also a component in mining explosives (blasting caps, sheet explosives). Again, it’s rapid and forceful detonation are the qualities sought after when using it.

  7. rom says:

    RDX has both military and civilian applications. As a military explosive, RDX can be used alone as a base charge for detonators … Civilian applications of RDX include use in fireworks, in demolition blocks, as a heating fuel for food rations, and as an occasional rodenticide. RDX has limited civilian use as a rat poison. –

    tonio: unless your toothpaste is DORA or Racumin, you ought to be safe. 😀

    folks:’giant fart’ … that’s pure spin. a simplification dreamed up by those who want to ridicule the idea that the explosion could be anything other than a bomb. in any case, call it what you will, the fact remains that: in the absence of a blast crater (thanks for reminding me cvj); in the absence of a taggant; and in the availability of an alternative explanation for the presence of RDX, Ayala Corp should be made to explain why it shouldn’t be indicted for criminal negligence.

  8. tonio says:


    well that solves your rat problem, luv. got any RDX you can feed ’em? maybe after you can blow them up as fireworks.

    *evil grin*

  9. rom says:

    tonio: nah, i’ll just feed ’em your toothpaste! LOL!

  10. cvj says:

    regarding ” the availability of an alternative explanation for the presence of RDX”, what are you referring to?

  11. rom says:

    cvj:i found out (after a bit more googling) that rdx can be used for fireworks and rat poison.

  12. cvj says:

    On the absence of the crater, that indeed needs to be addressed by the proponents of the bomb theory (which includes me). I’ve seen enough movies though where the protagonists ask “where is the crater ?” and then the camera pans out…

    On the methane-diesel blast theory, i’m interested to know which of the components blew a hole through the roof.

    Also, if it’s diesel that exploded, why doesn’t it look like one of those oil well fires.

  13. tonio says:


    shaped charge sir. the crater everyone seems to be looking for would be absent if the bomb was made to blow out the roof instead of the floor. RDX-based plastic explosives, like Semtex (a Czech made plastic explosive) can be made to do that. To answer your eventual question Rom, Semtex’s taggant is ethylene glycol dinitrate. Ethylene glycol is a common component of car antifreeze, which makes Semtex harder to detect than let’s say, C4.

  14. cvj says:

    Tonio, thanks! So a shaped charge can influence the direction of the blast and eliminate the crater?

    BTW, would you know why it was concluded that the source of the explosion was the basement?

  15. rom says:

    tonio:different manufacturers use to different taggants, which is why taggants are so useful. so the question is, did they find ethylene glycol dinitrate or any other known tagging chemical?

    i don’t see as how a shaped charge can eliminate the crater, unless maybe the charge was affixed to the basement ceiling.

  16. tonio says:

    now that’s hypothesis du jour.

    semtex and its cousins can easily be affixed to most surfaces. as for the presence of taggants in the residue, ethylene glycol would be one of the easiest to dismiss, as they can easily be dismissed as antifreeze from any vehicles in the basement or nearby.

    taggants are also necessary if one is to assume that the explosive used was manufactured commercially. ain’t no requirement on terrorist bomb makers to tag their stuff, yeah? no taggants in the mix, there’d be practically nothing in the residue.

    but for a definitive answer to that question, we’d have to rely on the experts, because unless someone’s leaked the test results on the Internet, our little group here’s got nothin’ 😛

    but a bomb affixed to the basement ceiling makes it even more insidious. that would mean extended access to glorietta’s basement area and a LOT of explosive.

  17. rom says:

    tonio:great point about us not having much to go on! absolutely. 😀 😀 😀

  18. rom says:

    tonio: which brings me back to my original bottom line – agree with the PNP or not, their report cannot be dismissed offhand. And Ayala should do more to prove their case than just keep on harping that the the mere presence of RDX is proof positive that a bomb was used. Instead, they should seek to disprove the indictment handed down by the PNP report and show that they haven’t been criminally negligent.

  19. tonio says:

    i thought the Ayalas had their insurance investigators on the scene as well?

  20. […] do think smoke has jumped the gun, a bit, in assuming the only way this will get resolved is in court: Let’s not […]

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