2 hurt in blast fronting church gate in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat; “pure terrorism,” says Cardinal Quevedo

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /27 November) – Two persons were injured when a homemade bomb exploded in front of the gate of a Catholic church in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat province at around 6:30 a.m. at the end of the first mass on the first Sunday of Advent.

“Pure terrorism,” Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato, told MindaNews in a text message.  

He said the bombing in front of the gate of the Our Lady of Hope Church “at the end of our 5:30 a.m. 1st Sunday of Advent mass is pure terrorism, made worse because of the sacredness of the place, the sacredness of the day, and the sacredness of the event that had just taken place.”

Our Lady of Hope Church in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. Photo courtesy of NDBC News from Mr. Manan and Esperanza Redthunder
Our Lady of Hope Church in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat after the blast on the 1st Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2016.  Photo courtesy of NDBC News from Mr. Manan and Esperanza Redthunder

“As the leader of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, I voice my strong condemnation against this irrational act of terrorism. It is an attack on innocent human lives. It is also an attack on freedom of religion and freedom to worship,” he said.

Quevedo appealed to “our security and police forces to ferret out those responsible and bring them to justice.”

“Let us all be vigilant against acts of terrorism. May the Lord of mercy and compassion provide us constant protection,” he said.

Quoting reports from the parish in Esperanza, Quevedo said the improvised explosive device (IED)  went off “outside the gate of the church, on the left side,” just as parishioners were leaving the church.  A bag was reportedly hung on the church gate from across the vendors, the parish report said, and more could have been hurt but for a vehicle parked near the gate.

Esperanza Mayor Helen Latog said the churchgoers were lucky a car was parked near the gate as it helped block the impact of the explosion, but two of its passengers were injured.

Injured were Loren Erazo and John Reynan Escanilan who were rushed to the provincial hospital.

The Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation’s NDBC News quoted Supt. Romeo Galgo, public information officer of the Philippine National Police in Region 12, as saying the “it was a cellphone detonated IED,” Galgo said.

The first Sunday of Advent falls on the fourth day of the annual Mindanao Week of Peace whose theme this year is “Respect and Protect Life.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas and Ferdinand B. Cabrera / MindaNews)