Palace vows to hunt down perpetrators behind Jolo twin explosions

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos and Genalyn Kabiling

Malacañang assured that no mercy will be shown to those behind the two explosions on Sunday, which rocked Jolo, Sulu, which left 21 dead and at least 71 others injured.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement following reports that two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) went off at the Jolo Cathedral in the middle of Sunday morning mass.

In his statement, Panelo said that Malacañang condemned the terrorist act, which took place just days after the province rejected the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

"We condemn in the strongest possible term the bomb explosions that occurred inside and outside the Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo this Sunday morning which left many soldiers and civilians dead and scores injured," Panelo said.

According to the Palace official, the government will not rest until the perpetrators, who boldly challenged the state, are put behind bars.

"By their act of terrorism and murder of soldiers and civilians, the enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals," Panelo said.

"We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars. The law will give them no mercy," he added.

According to Panelo, authorities are now investigating the brazen attacks, which includes identifying the group behind the blast that occurred while Mindanao is placed under martial rule.

He also extended condolences to the families of the victims that perished in the tragedy even as the government attend to the injured and give assistance to their families.

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon noted that they are yet to determine whether the explosion really is related to ratification of the BOL.

"I have to add that the explosion comes after the success of the plebiscite for the BOL. While the BOL lost narrowly in Sulu, it won 1:7 in the whole region, with Cotabato City even voting for inclusion in Bangamoro ARMM," he said in a statement.

"We have yet to establish if the the explosion are related to the all-important BOL. The BOL ends the secessionist narrative. The BOL signifies the end of war for secession. It stands for peace in Mindanao," he added.

Esperon also assured that the government will not allow the "mass murderers" behind the explosion to destroy the peace that the BOL signifies.

"The perpetrators are mass murderers. They are extremist criminals. We will not allow them to spoil the preference of the people for peace," he said.

"Security forces have tightened up the systems to secure Sulu and the rest of BARMM. Peace must prevail over war," he added.

'Some groups probably try to derail BOL'

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar has condemned the bombing in Jolo Cathedral in Sulu, saying some groups were probably trying to derail the implementation of the law creating the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

"Meron pong chance. There's a possibility pero tinitingnan lahat ng anggulo dito ," Andanar said in a radio interview about the possible links between the Lolo bombing and the BOL vote.

"Sa palagay ko ay malaking rason itong kanilang pagtutol o pagkadismaya siguro ng mga kalaban natin na iyong mga bumoto kontra dito sa BOL dahil tulad ng nabanggit ko ay overwhelming po iyong panalo ng BOL sa pagkara-ratify nito ," he said.

More than two dozen people were killed in the two explosions that rocked a Catholic Church in Jolo, Sulu Sunday morning. Several others were injured in the twin blasts while a mass was held at the church.

The blasts came a day the Commission on Elections declared the ratification of the BOL based on the January 21 plebiscite in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Residents of Sulu voted against the BOL ratification.

Andanar, meantime, said the government is determined to bring the culprits of the latest Jolo attack to justice. He noted that authorities have pinpointed suspects behind the incident based on security cameras. He did not elaborate.

Andanar denounced the criminals behind the incident who had "no respect" for religion, government and the democratic vote on the Bangsamoro initiative.

"Hindi po tayo mawawalan ng lakas, ng gana na ito po ay lalabanan natin, hahabulin po natin, hahabulin po ng ating mga Armed Forces of the Philippines at Philippine National Police ang mga kriminal na may kagagawan nito ,” he said.

He also assured that concerned government agencies were prepared to extend assistance to the victims of the blasts in Jolo.