PNP chief orders manhunt vs perpetrators of Datu Piang blast

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 19 September) – The chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Sunday ordered the police in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to conduct a manhunt against the perpetrators of the blast Saturday afternoon at the plaza in Datu Piang, Maguindanao that injured eight members of the gay community as they were playing volleyball.

A press release from the PNP on Sunday said General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar, also ordered the Bangsamoro police to “coordinate with the military in identifying and arresting the perpetrators of the attack.”

Authorities are still validating if the suspects had used a phone-triggered improvised explosive device in the attack.

Map of Datu Piang, Maguindanao. Courtesy of Google Maps

Eleazar urged residents of Datu Piang to immediately report to authorities if they noticed anything that could pose threats in the community.

Eight members of the gay community were injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off as they were playing volleyball at the covered court in the plaza of Datu Piang in Maguindanao at around 3 p.m. Saturday.

Datu Piang Mayor Victor Samama on Saturday said the victims were rushed to the Abpi-Samama clinic and hospital. But one of the victims badly hit by shrapnel was transferred to the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center in Cotabato City.

“We just learned after the incident that this group had received a threat, a warning from radical group who are allergic to gays,” the mayor said. He said the threat was not reported to them. He also said reports reaching him indicated victims did not coordinate the volleyball game

Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, spokesperson of the Joint Task Force Central told Mindanews they have yet to establish what group was behind the attack but they are investigating the threat angle.

Samama said they have heightened security measures in his town. He noted that the attack may have been perpetrated by the same group that attacked Datu Piang in December last year. But he quickly added they are “still investigating,” if, indeed it is the same group.

Datu Piang was attacked by members of the IS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) evening of December 3, 2020, which resulted to armed encounter between government forces – the military and police – and the the armed group that later managed to penetrate the downtown area near a Catholic church and school.

Before fleeing the town, the group burned a police car they captured during the siege.

Lt. Col. Anhouvic Atilano, then spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division confirmed what he described as “harassment of the BIFF in Poblacion Datu Piang” but said it was under control by security forces before midnight. Atilano said reports that the church was burned or the school was attacked were not true but he confirmed the burning of a police car and police outpost.

On Tuesday, two students of the Mindanao State University in Marawi City, both members of the gay community, were gunned down inside campus. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Marawi City was under siege by IS-inspired Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf in 2017 The five-month war displaced some 300,00 residents, killed at least a thousand combatants and civilians and left the country’s lone Islamic City in ruins. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)