Groups call for thorough probe of Cotabato blast

SOCO personnel examine the blast site outside the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City. Photo courtesy of Division Public Affairs Office, 6th Infantry Division

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 01 Jan) – Authorities must conduct a thorough investigation of the New Year’s Eve bombing in Cotabato City and not rush into conclusions so as to identify the real perpetrators, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and two other groups on Tuesday said.

The explosion, which killed two persons and wounded at least 24 others, occurred outside South Seas Mall on Don Rufino Alonzo Street (formerly Magallanes Street) at 1:59pm on Monday.

In a statement, MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim asked authorities to examine all angles and make the result of the same public.

“We should not allow any party or group to make the premature conclusions or draw insinuations so as to advance their own personal interest and political agenda,” he said.

Murad described the attack as an “act of cowardice, inhuman, and atrocious” but cautioned that that “the motive is yet too premature to be concluded at this point.”

“We are saddened by the fact that this incident occurred at a time while we are in the thick of preparations for the plebiscite on the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) on January 21, 2019. In the past, similar incidents have been resorted to in order to derail the Bangsamoro peace process. We must forge ahead with the same resolve as before so that we may finally achieve peace,” he added.

He urged the people of Cotabato City to unite in “securing our community and ensuring that peace will finally reign in our homeland. This is not the time to be divided. This is the time to stand united.”

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that drafted the Bangsamoro Law, asked the President “direct national law enforcement agencies to assist in pinpointing immediately the real perpetrators of the bombing and bringing them to the bar of justice.”

“We call on everyone to remain calm. Let us all pray for the victims and their families. Let us all pray that peace, truth and justice will reign in our homeland,” it said.

The BTC said one of its employees, Jonathan T. Torribiano, driver of Commissioner Melanio Ulama who represents the indigenous peoples in the BTC, was one of those who died because of the bombing.

It described Torribiano as “hardworking, humble, and peace-loving.”

“It is really sad that someone who worked for an office that seeks peace in the Bangsamoro would become a victim of senseless violence,” it said.

“In the same vein, we grieve for the others who also died or got wounded by this evil act. Only someone who really opposes peace can perpetuate such a terroristic, immoral and cowardly action,” it added.

In a statement, Suara Bangsamoro hit the “spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division for immediately blaming ISIS militants” as the perpetrators of the bombing.

“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,” it said.

The group was apparently referring to 6ID commander Maj Gen Cirilito Sobejana, who told ANC in an interview on Monday evening that “the IED that exploded earlier carries the signature of a Daesh-related group.”

Suara said it does not want the bombing incident to be “another excuse for a military takeover or a justification for President Rodrigo Duterte’s extension of Martial Law.”

Congress approved last month a third extension of martial law of Mindanao until December 31 this year.


Meanwhile, Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Koji Haneda extended his “his sincerest condolences to the families of the victims of the recent heavy rainfall caused by tropical depression ‘Usman’, as well as bombing incident in Cotabato City on December 31st, and expresses his sympathies to all those affected.”

“As a country tackling natural disasters and strongly condemning violent extremism, Japan stands in solidarity with the Government and the people of the Philippines,” Haneda said.

European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen also offered prayers to the victims of the bombing and tropical depression ‘Usman’.

“The EU fully supports the on-going peace process in Mindanao. I frequently visit Cotabato and am impressed each time by the progress made, and the commitment of my counterparts to build a better future for the region. Peace and reconciliation is the way forward. Violence and hatred will never succeed,” Jessen said.

“The New Year brings new hope to us all, and we stand together with the Philippine government in its efforts to make the country more peaceful and safer,” he added. (MindaNews)