2 wounded, scores saved in Bukidnon church bombing

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon  (MindaNews/29 August) —  A miracle, parishioners say, as the first of two grenades lobbed inside the San Vicente Ferrer Catholic church in Kalilangan, Bukindon during the first mass Sunday morning  exploded prematurely while the second did not  explode at all.

Only two children, from an estimated 200 parishioners inside the church at around 6:30 this morning, suffered injuries, albeit minor. Bishop Jose Araneta Cabantan of the Diocese of Malaybalay, Bukidnon however said that it is not clear if the injuries they suffered were from grenade shrapnels or due to the stampede that followed.

Police Sr. Insp. Regina Abanales, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 10 said the two injured parishioners are now in their respective homes.

According to Abanales,  police reports from the field indicated that two hand grenades were thrown in the church, towards the altar.  “One of the grenades prematurely exploded near the front door while the other failed to explode,” she said.

The detonating pin of the other grenade, however, was already removed, she said.  Responding police detonated it safely outside the church premises.

It was the first attempt at bombing a church in the Diocese.

The bishop said he hopes the attack in Kalilangan was an isolated case.

He  urged a dialogue with whoever has grievances against the Church or any Catholic in the area. “Committing terroristic acts further aggravates conflict and can never be the road to peace,” he said.

The bishop said the grenade attack happened at around 6.30 in the morning while the parishioners were reciting the “Prayer of the Faithful.”

“Some policemen who were attending  the mass praised  Fr. Art Paraiso for keeping the parishioners calm. They then all went outside the church and Fr. Paraiso proceeded to say the mass outside,” he said.

Bishop Cabantan said he was informed the grenade-throwers were barely in their teens and were riding in tandem on a motorcycle. “According to the police, the one who threw the grenades was more or less 12 years old who immediately escaped on board the waiting motorcycle,” he said.

The San Vicente Ferrer parish has at least 20,000 parishioners.

Sr. Supt. Nerio Bermudo, chief of the Bukidnon police, said he believes Sunday’s bombing incident is an isolated case and not related to the August 5 killing of a Rural Transit bus driver and his  assistant in nearby Wao town in Lanao del Sur and the Aug. 27 burning of another Rural Transit bus that resulted in the death of the bus driver, his assistant and two police officers in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte.

Police are still investigating the incident.

Kalilangan is one of the more progressive towns of Bukidnon. It is the last town before the predominantly Maranao province of Lanao del Sur. (BenCyrus G. Ellorin/MindaNews)