SUARA BANGSAMORO: Rage Against the Attack on Innocent Civilians! Justice for the victims of Cotabato City Bombing!

Suara Bangsamoro condemns the bombing that happened in a mall in Cotabato City today that left 2 dead and more than 32 injured. We pray for the fast recovery of those wounded, most of whom are our relatives, and hope that the real perpetrators will be apprehended.

As fellow residents of Cotabato, we condemn the attack on innocent civilians and call for an honest investigation to get the real perpetrators apprehended. However, we do not want the bombing incident to be another excuse for a military take-over or a justification for President Rodrigo Duterte’s extension of Martial Law.

Suara Bangsamoro heavily criticizes the spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for immediately blaming ISIS militants as behind the bombing of the SouthSeas mall in Cotabato City today that left two killed and 32 more injured.

Lacking thorough investigation, the military is quick to accuse ISIS militants for this would justify their military take-over in Cotabato City and other Moro areas, at a time that residents of Cotabato City and other Moro areas in Mindanao are preparing for the plebiscite that would ratify the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

The military should refrain from issuing such statements as it would affect not only the investigation but would lead to incidents of human rights violations. A shortcut of the investigation is an injustice to the families of the victims and to the people of Cotabato City, as the real perpetrators will still roam free and the bombing incidents continue.

This latest bombing incident in Cotabato City only proves that imposing Martial Law in Mindanao does not address the mysterious bombings in Mindanao, in fact in 18 months of Martial Law Mindanao the military and the police has still not apprehended the real perpetrators of the crime, instead innocent civilians bear the brunt of military operations that includes aerial bombardment and artillery shelling.

What we fear is in using the ISIS terrorist angle,  Moro communities will experience another full scale response such as what happened in Marawi City – setting up of checkpoints, arbitrary arrests and raids, and worse, another round of aerial bombardment and military operations in Moro areas suspected of ISIS presence such as the second district of Maguindanao and North Cotabato. Already the whole city was put in a lockdown today, and soon we will be expecting a series of arrest of suspected perpetrators.

We cannot help but be indignant of the way that peace in Cotabato City has been tested if not under attack, as the people are preparing for the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on January 21.  However, we also fear that a military take over could  affect the coming plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), to the range of limiting campaign activities for the plebiscite, or worse postponing or cancelling the plebiscite citing security reasons.

Cases of extra-judicial killings have already marred the campaign for the BOL, with the death of pro-BOL supporters such as Atty Nasser Laban, 48, of Cotabato City and Ahmad Kumayog, 43, a village treasurer in Midsayap, North Cotabato this month by still unknown perpetrators.

We hope that this incident will not be used to divide the Moro people by accusing each other and using thier stand for and against the BOL as the motive behind the bombing. What is glossed over in this incident is it will be used to justifiy President Duterte’s drastic military solution to conflict in Mindanao that would lead to military abuses and human rights violations.