Palace condemns explosions, vows to go after culprits
At least 21 people suffered injuries in a series of explosions that rocked Cotabato City on Sunday, December 22 — the eve of President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to the city for a land distribution ceremony.
According to regional military spokesperson Major Arvin Encinas, a hand grenade was thrown into a military truck patrolling Cotabato City in Mindanao, wounding eight soldiers and four civilians. It was quickly followed by an improvised explosive device (IED) blast near the bridge in Libungan town that wounded five civilians.
No groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Encinas said they are not discounting “the possibility that Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Daesh-inspired groups are behind this.”
Violent insurgencies like the uprising in Mindanao led by a Muslim separatist have been plaguing the country, leaving thousands of people for dead.
A landmark peace deal with the largest of the rebel groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was sealed in 2019, however the Islamic State-aligned BIFF and Abu Sayyaf were not included in it.
In December last year, two people died while 35 were wounded when a bomb went off outside a shopping mall, believed to be incited by Islamic State-linked militants.
The Star states that the Islamic State has been stepping up its strategy of absorbing existing insurgent groups around the world as its “caliphate” crumbled in the Middle East.
In May 2017, hundreds of pro-IS gunmen seized the Muslim city of Marawi, which sparked a five-month battle that left more than 1,000 people dead and led Duterte to put the island of Mindanao in a military rule.
Malacanang to go after perpetrators
The Palace assured the public that it would go after the culprits responsible for the separate explosions in Cotabato and Maguindanao. In a report by Inquirer, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said that, “authorities are now investigating the matter.”
“Any attempt to sow fear, fear, hatred and violence is doomed to fail,” he added. “ We will pursue the pursue the perpetrators and will harness all our might to crush all evil forces or enemies of the state, as well as their supporters.”
Panelo also called on the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity or person to authorities.