SULU, Philippines — The government strongly condemned what it called “dastardly attacks” that rocked Mt. Carmel Cathedral in the municipality of Jolo.
Two consecutive explosions reportedly caused by improvised explosive devices (IED) killed and wounded a number of civilians and government troopers from inside and outside of the supposedly solemn place at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday (January 27).
Seven Army troopers were killed in action while 14 others were wounded and one police officer.
Around 14 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded, mostly church goers, according to reports from the PNP-AFP Incident Command Post.
Malacañang assured that the authorities are doing everything to identify the group behind the blast.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement said the military “pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators” until “every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars.”
“The law will give then no mercy,” Panelo said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he already directed all troops “to heighten their alert, secure all places of worships and public places at once and initiate pro-active security measures” to thwart the enemies’ hostile plans.
“We assure our people that we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind the incident,” Lorenzana said.
The military is now in close coordination with the PNP to aid in the investigation and to identify the perpetrators.
AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, Jr., meanwhile, called on the public to remain calm as the government security forces address the recent attacks.
“I strongly commit, with the help of relevant agencies of government, to pursue the criminals with the full force of the law to ensure that the victims of this injustice will be prosecuted and punished,” General Madrigal concluded. — UNTV News and Rescue
MANILA, Philippines – Some P20.4 million worth of suspected shabu were confiscated in a buy-bust operation conducted in Jolo town of Sulu province, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Monday.
Citing a report from the Police Regional Office Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR), PNP officer-in-charge PLt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the illegal drugs were seized in an operation conducted on Sunday at Barangay Walled City.
Police said the buy-bust operation was jointly launched by intel operatives from Jolo MPS, Indanan MPS, 11th and 35th Mobile Intelligence Battalion, in cooperation with the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the Bangsamoro region.
Operatives also arrested a drug suspect, identified as Ejek Ali Abduhalim, 44, during the operation.
“Seized from the suspect were one paper bag with more or less three kilograms of suspected shabu with a street value of P20.4 million and two mobile phones,” Eleazar said.
The suspect is now facing criminal charges violating Sections 5 and 11 of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.
“The PNP is working double-time to stop the proliferation of illegal drugs in every region across the country, as we continue to intensify our anti-illegal drugs operations,” Eleazar said.
MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said it will review its existing protocols to see if these are in need of improvements following the unfortunate incident involving a group of policemen and soldiers in Jolo, Sulu.
In a statement, AFP spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said the AFP chief of staff General Felimon Santos Jr. and Philippine National Police chief Police General Archie Gamboa have agreed to revisit each Technique, Tactics, and Procedure (TTPs) to “determine if these are current and are followed religiously to prevent the incident from happening again.”
On Monday, June 29, four soldiers were killed after they were accosted by local police officers.
The Philippine Army earlier said the four men, who were wearing civilian clothes, were on an official mission when they were spotted by police officers on patrol.
When questioned by cops, the four men allegedly introduced themselves as members of the AFP. They were then asked to proceed to the Jolo Municipal Police Station for verification.
However, initial police report said the soldiers attempted to escape prompting police to give chase. When the men got off their vehicle, they allegedly pointed their firearms at the police, which prompted the cops to fire at them, resulting in their death.
But Philippine Army Commanding General Lieutenant General Gilbert Gapay criticized the spot report of the police, calling it “fabricated,” and “full of inconsistencies.” He also tagged the incident as a “rubout” and “murder” after noting that the soldiers did not try to escape and never fired a single shot towards police officers.
According to Arevalo, Gapay’s comments on the incident were based from “a learned evaluation of information” that were presented to him.
“His point of view is supported by spot reports and eye-witness accounts of two civilians and of a motorcycle-riding soldier who was part of the operation trailing the SUV boarded by the four intelligence personnel,” he said.
While there is an initial result of the autopsy, Arevalo said the AFP will not reveal it yet to avoid preempting its announcement.
The slain soldiers were given military arrival honors when their remains were brought at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City on Tuesday afternoon.
“We share the grief of LTGen Gapay and his call for an impartial and thorough investigation and his quest for justice as he minced no words in calling for accountability and liability for those involved in the incident,” he added.
Arevalo also shared that as a way forward and apart from the yearning for justice, AFP chief Santos has tasked members of the staff and subordinate commanders to ensure that these soldiers who died in line of duty will be given the assistance, benefits, and entitlements due them.
The military also hopes for a swift yet thorough investigation of the incident, with the express cooperation of the PNP and the AFP.
“While we are in search for truth and justice, we are also mindful not to allow the enemies of the state to take advantage of the incident to create a divide between the AFP and the PNP,” Arevalo said.
SULU, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) cannot yet determine the kind of bomb used in the deadly blast in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday (January 27) that killed around 20 individuals.
PNP Chief DG Oscar Albayalde said investigation and collection of bomb fragments are still ongoing to identify the signature of the perpetrators through the type of explosive that was used.
“Sa ngayon wala pang masabi kung ano klaseng bomba dahil walang marecover na residue although may mga nakuha silang parts na cellphone,” Albayalde said.
The PNP Chief also ordered full-alert status of the entire police force in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the National Capital Region (NCR).
The entire municipality of Jolo has been placed on lockdown and checkpoints were enforced in different areas of the town.
Albayalde said Mt. Carmel Cathedral has been a target of attacks in the past where priests and helpers were harmed and killed.
“Nagmimisa halos nasa second reading pa lang daw nung pumutok itong IED. Halos puno dahil iyon ang madalas na pinupuntahan ng mga tao. Second mass, sa thinking ng pari, mga nasa 100 (persons) ang nasa loob,” Albayalde said of the attendees of the doomed Sunday mass in Jolo.
Currently, a battalion of PNP Special Action Force (SAF) has been stationed in the area for security.
Albayalde said it was not the first time that a house of worship has been attacked in the town.
In 2011, a bomb was placed and blasted off the altar of a Catholic chapel leaving several people dead. – Marje Pelayo (with reports from Lea Ylagan)
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