‘Task Group South Seas’ formed to solve Cotabato City blast

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 2 Jan) ­– The “Task Group South Seas” has been formed to speed up the investigation on the New Year’s Eve blast in Cotabato City that killed two persons and wounded 34 others, authorities said on Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Eliseo Rasco, Police Regional Office-12 director, said they created the special investigating body in a bid to also bring the perpetrators behind bars.

In a statement, he said the perpetrators carried out the attack to humiliate the government without deference on the lives of innocent civilians.

However, the official did not blame any group so far for the lethal blast, as he called on the public to be extra vigilant and report suspicious packages or individuals to the authorities for proper action.

But Maj. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said they are not ruling out the possibility that the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) could be behind the deadly explosion.

Sobejana said the BIFF might be retaliating for the military’s successful operations against them in the marshes of Maguindanao province.

In a radio interview here, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama denied they were behind the deadly explosion that occurred outside South Seas Mall.

Mama claimed the bomb attack could have been perpetrated by quarters opposed to the ratification of the Bangsamoro organic law.

The plebiscite for the ratification of the law is set for January 21 and February 6.

Mama said the “BIFF was not out to sabotage the plebiscite” that seeks to establish the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to replace the 28-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“The government should conduct a deeper investigation as the bomb attack could be motivated by those who want to spoil the BOL,” he said.

The Bangsamoro organic law is anchored on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 2014.

The BIFF broke away several years ago from the MILF after the latter opted to pursue a wider autonomy than the establishment of an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

Condemning the latest explosion in Mindanao, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Presidential  Adviser on the Peace Process, appealed for calm “in these trying times when our resolve to pursue just and lasting peace is being tested.”

“I encourage everyone to practice sobriety and not be swayed to spread unfounded speculations relating to the incident,” he said in a statement.

Galvez described the explosion as an “isolated case,” assuring that “our security forces are on top of the situation.”

“Let us not allow this incident to discourage us to unite and act as one in our collective aspiration to achieve just and enduring peace not just in Mindanao, but in the whole country,” he said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)