A CATHOLIC church service on Sunday at the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi was ripped apart by an explosion believed caused by “foreign terrorists,” killing at least four people and wounding 27 others, prompting President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to order the deployment of additional police and troops to help secure Mindanao.
“I have instructed the Philippine National Police [PNP] and the Armed Forces of the Philippines [AFP] to ensure the protection and safety of civilians and the
security of affected and vulnerable communities,” the chief executive said in a statement posted on his X account (formerly Twitter).
Local officials reported the incident happened at the MSU gymnasium during a Catholic mass Sunday morning.
“Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society,” Marcos said.
“Rest assured we will bring the perpetrators of this ruthless act to justice,” he added.
Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Carlito G. Galvez Jr. also denounced the incident, which happened during the celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace.
“Such a barbaric act has no room in a humane, civilized, [and] peaceful society. Rest assured that the Marcos administration will not leave any stone unturned to ensure the perpetrators are brought to the bar of justice,” Galvez said.
Sketchy reports reaching the police regional office of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had yet to identify the victims as well as the suspects in the bombing.
It was not clear what the Palace basis was for deeming the perpetrators “foreign terrorists.”
The local police report only said investigators confirmed the death of four persons and the injury to 10 others in the explosion of an improvised explosive device inside the Dimaporo Gymnasium in Barangay Dimalna, Mindanao State University campus, some four kilometers west of downtown Marawi City.
The victims were among those attending a 7:00 am mass or prayer session inside the MSU gym.
Photographs of the victims were also posted in various social media networks, showing the dead and the injured. The injured were rushed to the Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City while bodies of the dead were still at the crime scene for investigation, the police said.
Police Col. Robert S Daculan, Lanao del Sur provincial commander, ordered the area cordoned.
In one Facebook chat group, an MSU alumnus recalled a previous grenade explosion inside the Social Hall of the university, not far from the gym, in 1975 “while an evening concert was going on.”
Marcos expressed his condolences to the victims and their families as well as the communities affected by the explosion.
“Let us all keep the victims, their families, and our communities in our prayers,” Marcos said.
Last, he also called on the public to “remain calm, circumspect, and conscientious” to prevent a similar incident from happening again and not to spread “inaccurate, unvetted, and unofficial information” on the matter.
The League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) condemned the bombing.
Gov. Reynaldo S. Tamayo Jr., National president of LPP said in a statement, “The LPP urgently calls upon the Philippine National Police [PNP] to conduct a thorough investigation of the cowardly act and bring to justice those behind this dastardly crime.”
LPP also called on Marawi City to exercise restraint and avoid any acts of revenge but to cooperate with the authorities to hold accountable the culprits. “We also call upon other personalities with information about it to come forward and shed light on the incident,” Tamayo said.
Senators prod PNP, AFP
Senators on Sunday expressed outrage at the bombing and pressed the police and military to move quickly to get the perpetrators of what they called a “barbaric” and “unjustifiable” act, expressing alarm that it happened in the city laid siege to for seven months by homegrown terrorists in 2017.
“I am angered and appalled by the bombing of the Mindanao State University today. To enact such violence on an innocent group of people gathered to hear mass is completely heartless,” Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said in a statement.
“It is disheartening to see such violence play out in Marawi once again, years after the siege and well into a period of newfound peace enjoyed by our brothers and sisters under the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“It is especially alarming to see such a brazen attack on a state university during a Catholic Mass. No one should have to feel unsafe in places of learning and places of worship,” Zubiri said.
He sought “the coordinated efforts of the Philippine National Police, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous government to leave no stone unturned in bringing justice to their loved ones, and to restore the peace that we have worked hard to gain in Marawi over the past six years.”
In a separate statement, the chairman of the Senate Defense committee, SenatorJinggoy” Estrada, said: “This heinous crime has no justification and must be strongly condemned by all.”
Estrada lamented the attack’s timing, as Mindanao Week of Peace is observed.
Estrada added, “We reject any attempts to divide us along religious lines or incite hatred among us.”
Minority Leader Koko Pimentel condemned “in no uncertain terms this act of violence which has no place in Philippine society.”
At the same time, he enjoined everyone to “reaffirm our commitment to peace and understanding, rejecting any form of violence and hatred that seeks to divide us.”
Sen. Nancy Binay vowed, “We are all for peace in Mindanao, and we will not be cowed by threats or terror.”
She asked the PNP and AFP “to step up their intelligence efforts and their fight against the presence of lawless elements, and groups that terrorize society.”
Majority Leader Joel Villanueva said in a statement: “The fact that this took place within a school, a place that should be a safe place for our students, teachers, and the community, makes it even more disturbing.
“We call on the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation and the Bangsamoro Government to immediately conduct an investigation and bring the perpetrators to justice.”
Sen. Grace Poe weighed in: “We expect our law enforcers to do whatever it takes to bring the perpetrators to justice and go after their networks. The crackdown against unlawful elements, including terrorists, will be relentless with the vigilance of our local communities.
Sen. Robin Padilla, a Muslim, deplored that “a vile crime occurred while our Catholic brethren were attending Mass. Along with my family and my Senate office, I extend my condolences to the families of those who died, and my sympathies to those who were wounded.”
For his part. Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said: “As a nation, it is imperative that we stand united against such acts of terror and work tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our communities and educational institutions.”
Meanwhile, Akbayan Party, said in a statement: “Every community in our nation, regardless of religion or political inclination, deserves an inherent right to safety, especially sacred spaces dedicated to education and the reverent observation of faith.”
Image credits: AP/Froilan Gallardo