Diary, 10 July 2020 - Riding Manila's Midnight Express

by Anthony C Heaford 
10 July 2020 Updated 13 July 2020

Could a Manila drugs bust link the CIA to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group?

In April 1994 I spent a night in a Manila jail on drugs charges before jumping bail two weeks later and fleeing the country on a new passport issued to me from the backdoor of the British embassy. I’d been busted for possession of a few grams of hashish (cannabis) after foolishly smoking a joint outside of a central Manila tourist bar. A Filipino parking attendant had smelt the marijuana and alerted the police. I was stopped by two plain clothed policemen as I tried to re-enter the bar and a crowd of locals gathered round as I was questioned. I was asked to empty my pockets and thinking the piece of hashish I had was so small not to be noticed I turned out my pockets, letting the hashish drop to the ground. But instead of rolling away like a piece of pocket fluff as I’d hoped the tiny piece of hashish seemed to bounce like a bowling ball before coming to a rest between me and the policemen. I was busted.

The policemen took me to a small, out of the way police station and I was immediately placed in a wild west type jail cell with floor to ceiling bars across its front. Despite facing an eighteen year jail sentence (the standard penalty in the Philippines for a foreigner caught with any amount of any illegal drug), I knew nothing would happen until morning and I actually managed to get a good night’s sleep. The next morning some friends who witnessed my arrest arrived at the jail with my passport and when handed to the police this was deemed enough security to release me on bail. I left the jail with an appointment to see the judge the next day.

It was the same plain clothed policemen who collected me from my hotel the next day and took me to a different, much larger police station to see the judge. There was no booking in procedure, I was just taken to a basement office where a distinguished looking bearded Filipino in an expensive suit was sat in a plush leather chair behind a large desk. After acknowledging and apologising for my crime the distinguished looking Filipino reminded me of the eighteen year jail sentence I was facing before telling me the matter could be settled for $2000. That was an amount well beyond my means at that time and so the negotiations began. As I’d been taken to this meeting in a large central police station by the arresting officers, I assumed this process was standard operating procedure (i.e. legal) for such cases. After some discussion a fine of $400 was agreed upon, but only after the judge had told me my passport (black-market value $2000) had been lost and that on my behalf he would arrange a new one to be issued from the British embassy. 

A few days later I returned to the basement office and paid my fine before being taken to the British embassy where, without leaving the police officer's jeep, a Filipino exited a back door of the embassy building and handed me a brand new passport. As the arresting policemen drove me back to my hotel the more senior officer placed his shiny silver coloured revolver on the central console (within my reach) before turning around and telling me that I now “have friends in Manila”. This didn’t reassure me and I changed my onward ticket and made my way to Manila’s international airport a few days later, feeling very, very nervous as I passed through customs. But I wasn’t stopped and within a few hours I was sat on the Khao San road in Bangkok enjoying a beer with my friend. He was inspecting my new passport when he saw it was my birthday that day - a matter I’d forgot in the melee of getting out of Manila. 

Linking the CIA to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

There was another group of men in Manila in April 1994 - Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s terrorist cell who were planning on bombing multiple trans-Pacific flights, an unfulfilled terrorist plot known as the Bojinka Plot. That group of terrorists were staying in the same area of Manila as me and I believe I saw them out one night too - an unusual group of middle eastern looking men entering the Hobbit House restaurant. But there was no connection between my backpacking tour of the Philippines and those terrorists - that was purely coincidental.

A potential CIA link came to light three years later when I was working at a trade show in Chicago in April 1997, which ironically is where I first met al Qaeda’s financiers, representatives of the London based Longulf Trading, a regional office of the Yemeni Hayel Saeed Anam Group. That meeting with al Qaeda’s financiers in Chicago was setup by my work colleague Dave Dean, the US sales agent of my then employer as detailed here

I’d not seen Dave Dean since my visit to Manila three years previously but someone had told him about my arrest there. Dave told me I should have called him because he still had contacts in Manila who could have resolved my situation there very easily. Dave had run a go-go bar in the Philippines himself in the latter years of the American War on Vietnam, a role he’d turned to after being very seriously injured during Special Forces HALO parachute training being run by the infamous CIA contractor Billy Waugh.

It is only with my recently acquired knowledge of Dave Dean’s link to Billy Waugh (who admitted training al Qaeda in Yemen in the 1990s) that I’ve established that it was Dave who setup the meeting with al Qaeda’s financiers in Chicago in April 1997. And it is with that knowledge in mind that I am speculating that Dave’s contacts in Manila who could've lifted me from a jail cell in Manila in 1994 were not contacts he’d made during his time in the Philippines in the 1970s, but were more likely to be CIA operations associated contacts of Dave’s.

And how do I connect that to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group who were operating in the southern Philippines from 1988 onwards? It was a consequence of meeting al Qaeda’s financiers in Chicago that I ended up meeting Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda members in Yemen in September 1997 - Dave Dean setup that original Chicago meeting. So if Dave Dean was aiding al Qaeda in Yemen in 1997, is it unreasonable to speculate that he was aiding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s terrorist cell in Manila or the Abu Sayyaf group further south in the archipelago?

I spent four months travelling throughout the Philippines in 1994 and it remains one of my favourite destinations - a stunningly beautiful country with such kind and welcoming people. This report is only intended to highlight a possible CIA connection to the 1994 Bojinka Plot and to Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist organisation named after the Saudi sponsored Afghan Warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.

My Second Passport

As a frequent business traveller in 1997 I was issued a second British passport at the request of my employer, so that I could send one passport away for visa applications whilst travelling elsewhere on the second passport. I lost that second passport after moving home in 2004, making a total of two British passports I’ve lost - one in Manila in 1994 and a second in 2004.   

Truly, for some of us nothing is written, unless we write it 
© Anthony C Heaford - The Quiet Mancunian