MANILA – Malacañang on Monday denounced the two successive bomb explosions in downtown Jolo, Sulu that killed at least six soldiers and five civilians, and injured 40 others.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the explosion incidents in Jolo, Sulu today, which left scores dead and wounded, including soldiers,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement.
Roque also offered his condolences to the families and loved ones of those who died in the tragic incidents.
He assured that authorities are conducting an investigation, which includes identifying the individuals or groups behind the dastardly attacks.
Roque also urged Jolo residents to stay vigilant and report suspicious persons or activities.
“We call on the residents of Jolo to stay vigilant and report suspicious personalities and unattended items in their areas,” he said.
Reports showed that the first explosion happened along Serrantes Street, Barangay Walled City in Jolo at about 11:53 a.m. after an unidentified person parked a bomb-laden motorcycle beside an M35 truck of the Army’s 11th Infantry Division.
The explosion site was the usual place where troops park their vehicle whenever they go on marketing duties.
Joint Task Force Sulu spokesperson, Capt. Rex Payot, said the soldiers were conducting a security operation to support local government officials who were on a coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response effort when the first explosion occurred.
The second explosion happened just 100 meters away from the site of the first explosion at about 1:06 p.m., just as authorities were conducting a post-blast assessment.
In a statement following the blasts, the Joint Task Force Sulu assured the public that “we will continue to sustain the security efforts for peace and stability in the province.”
In a separate statement, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the twin bombings should serve as “tragic reminders” that despite the prevailing health crisis, the government must remain vigilant in face of continuing threats to national security.
“The government has always maintained a zero tolerance policy for terrorism and terrorism-related violence. Terrorism has no place in a civilized world, especially one dealing with a pandemic,” Nograles said.
He said the government will exert as much effort in holding those accountable to the crimes as it does in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our aim has always been to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, especially in areas that have long been exposed to conflict. But we will not hesitate to go after those who target innocent civilians and persons in authority,” he said.
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar also extended sympathies and vowed justice for the victims’ bereaved families.
“We extend our condolences to the families whose loved ones died from the blasts and are with them in seeking justice for those they have lost. Our thoughts also go out to many others that have been affected by this morally reprehensible event,” Andanar said.
Andanar said the government will ensure that the perpetrators will be held accountable and prosecuted by law.
“Grave acts against humanity, such as these, have no place in our society, especially as we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said.
Investigators were looking at the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as the possible perpetrator of the attack.
The motive behind the attack has yet to be determined although investigators said among those being considered is the arrest of ASG sub-commander Anduljihad “Edang” Susukan last August 13.
They were also trying to find out whether the attack was connected to the suicide bombers being tracked by four Philippine Army intelligence operatives who were killed by nine cops in Jolo last June 29. (PNA)