DAVAO CITY, Philippines — At least two individuals were killed and 34 others were wounded after an improvised explosive device went off on Monday afternoon in front of South Seas Mall in Cotabato City as holidays shoppers rush for New Year’s celebration.
Cotabato City Police Office Spokesperson PCI Rowell Zafra identified the fatalities as Jonathan Tasic Toriviano, a driver of a Bangsamoro Transition Commission and a resident of Upi in Maguindanao and Mariam Ulama Kali, a resident of Poblacion 2, Cotabato City.
Zafra said police are still conducting an investigation to identify the suspects behind Monday’s New Year’s Eve blast.
“We are still conducting an investigation after the blast to identify the suspect and we are asking the public to stay at home for safety,” Zafra said.
Another IED was also found inside a hair gel container in the 2nd floor of the malls’ baggage counter after an investigation was conducted by the EOD team and the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO), according to Zafra.
He added that the recovered second bomb would be directly subjected for distraction.
The military has earlier claimed that the group could be the ISIS militants, saying the IED bore some signatures of the Daesh-related group.
City Mayor Cynthia Guiani condemned the bombing incident as another terrorist act.
“It is unimaginable how some people can start the New Year with an act of cruelty but no matter how you threaten us, the people of Cotabato City are resilient and we are stronger than how you think we are. We will stand up against terrorism. We will fight against evil,” Guaini said.
For its part, Suara Bangsamoro said the incident was meant to destroy the peace in Cotabato City as the slated BOL plebiscite nears.
“We cannot help but be indignant of the way that peace in Cotabato City has been tested, as people are preparing weeks before the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). a military take-over during plebiscite or election time is the least needed by the people and could change the real wishes of the people,” Jerome Aba said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) MILF chair Al Haj Ebrahim Murad perceived the blast incident as something that could derail the Bangsamoro peace process.
“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,” Murad said in a statement on Monday evening.
Murad said the incident comes as they are preparing for the plebiscite on the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law ( BOL) on January 29.
“We ask the authorities to examine all angles and make the result of the same public. We should not allow any party or group to make premature conclusions or draw insinuations so as to advance their own personal interest or political agenda,” Murad added.
“It is precisely for the absence of security in our homeland that we exert our efforts for the passage of the BOL so that a government can be established that can really protect and promote the peace and security of the place and its peoples,” Murad stressed.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, in a statement on Monday, also urged the authorities to conduct a thorough probe to give justice to the blast victims.
“We urge investigators and all civilians to not be caught up in the chaos surrounding this terrorist act. We cannot afford to be divisive at this moment. Only by melding together can we bring about peace and justice,” Hataman said.
“Evil acts like these will be punished in this world and the next, while all good deeds will be rewarded. Let us remember the good people of Cotabato for the sake of our community,” Hataman said. (davaotoday.com)