Security officials condemn Jolo blast; vow suspects’ arrest

Ranking defense, military and police officials scored the perpetrators of the bloody bomb attack at a church in Jolo, Sulu province, which killed an initial number of 17 people and wounded 57 others Sunday morning.

“We strongly condemn the bombing that transpired at the Jolo Cathedral in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu at 8:15 a.m. today (Sunday), just before the start of the holy mass that killed and wounded soldiers and civilians,” Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a message to reporters.

Of the 17 reported killed, five were military personnel and 12 were civilians. The 57 wounded were 14 servicemen, 42 civilians, and one Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has immediately secured the explosion area and transported the casualties to the nearest medical facilities, including the air evacuation of some victims to Zamboanga City for further medication and evaluation,” Lorenzana said.

Following the deadly blast, the Defense chief said that he has directed troops to heighten their alert level, secure all places of worships and public places at once, and initiate pro-active security measures to thwart hostile plans.

“As we convey our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and offer our sympathy to the peace-loving people of Sulu who are severely affected by this dastardly act, we assure our people that we will use the full force of the law to bring to justice the perpetrators behind this incident,” Lorenzana added.

He urged the public to be more vigilant and to cooperate with the authorities in reporting any security-related concerns. He also urged everyone to remain calm and avoid spreading panic in the communities to deny terrorists any victory.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, for his part, condemned the bomb attack and called it treacherous.

“We strongly condemn this treachery and commiserate with the families of the victims. 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,” he added.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo said the military is now coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the ongoing investigation aimed at identifying and arresting the suspects.

“We are in close coordination with PNP counterparts to aid in the investigation and identification of the perpetrators,” he said in a message.

Meanwhile, police spokesperson Senior Supt. Bernard Banac said that PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde has ordered a thorough investigation into the incident to ensure the immediate arrest of the suspects.

“We extend our sympathy to the families of the victims and we will ensure that all possible assistance to the families will be given. We assure the bereaved families and their relatives that we will ensure that justice will be served in the soonest time possible,” he added. (With report from Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/PNA)