By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senators on Monday expressed support for the government's pursuit of justice and accountability for the victims in the bombing at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu, Sunday.
At least 20 persons, which included personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), were killed while more than 100 were hurt after two improvised explosive devices exploded during a mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu Sunday morning.
Police investigators and soldiers attend the scene after two bombs exploded outside a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan / MANILA BULLETIN)
“I fully support our government as they vow to crush those responsible for the attack. I am also praying for the safety of military personnel as they go after the perpetrators,” Senator Cynthia Villar said on Monday.
Villar, who described the incident as an "act of terrorism", added: "No time should be wasted in hunting down those who are responsible for this senseless act.”
Sen. Leila de Lima, in condemning the bombing, also called on authorities to investigate and track down the perpetrators of the attack "to ensure accountability and accord the victims and their families the justice they deserve."
“This senseless attack calls for serious government attention and action to ensure that the perpetrators behind the bombing are put to justice and the victims will not be simply relegated as collateral damage of the persisting acts of terrorism in the area,” De Lima said in her dispatch.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, for his part, said he could not express enough his outrage on the bombing of the Jolo church. He, too, joined the call for justice for the casualties of the incident.
"Let us pray for the souls of those who died and pray for the speedy recovery and the lessening of the pain being felt by the injured. Let us pursue justice and justice means that the perpetrators of these dastardly acts must be found out, charged and punished pursuant to law," Pimentel said.
Sen. Joel Villanueva likewise said he hoped that law enforcement agencies and the AFP will be able to "bring justice to those who perished in this senseless act against our people."
Villanueva, meanwhile, appealed to stop the attacks on "sacred" places" like churches. "Places of worship should be spared from senseless violence," he said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, in a tweet on Monday, also expressed sympathies to the families of the victims of the bombing.
"This act of violence is also an attack on the Christian community, and therefore must be condemned in the strongest possible terms," Trillanes said.
The Palace earlier vowed that it will be merciless in pursuing those behind the attack in the Jolo Cathedral.
Members of the Upper Chamber also could not help but link the attack to the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday raised suspicion that those behind the bombing wanted to "taint" that ratification of the BOL. Zubiri sponsored the BOL in Senate.
Villar on Monday agreed with Zubiri, saying that attack "could be an attempt to undermine the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and the creation of the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a measure that will bring prosperity and lasting peace in Mindanao."
De Lima said she hopes that the incident would not derail the Bangsamoro peace process.
"The timing of the bombing is really questionable that is why it poses a big challenge for the authorities to find out, through a thorough investigation, the real reason and mastermind behind the Jolo bombings," she said.