DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Four people were killed and at least 42 wounded when a bomb exploded inside Dimaporo Gymnasium in Mindanao State University while a Catholic mass was held on December 3 at 7 am.
Three persons died on the spot while the fourth victim died in the hospital, the Philippine National Police Bangsamoro Autonomous Region reported.
Most of the wounded were treated at the Amai Pakpak Medical Center, and others at the MSU infirmary.
Witnesses told media that the bomb exploded as the mass officiated by Fr. Benigno Flores Jr was starting, and sounded like firecrackers.
Photos and videos posted on social media revealed the explosion happened in the middle of the congregation, as around four bodies lay bloodied on the floor and some plastic chairs were broken.
Those attending the mass were students, faculty, and school personnel.
A teacher interviewed by Davao Today said that MSU has always opened its campus for Sunday mass for university students and staff for decades. Mass would be held in the chapel, but last Sunday’s mass was held at the gym as they were observing the Sunday Advent.
This was the first time that a mass in MSU was attacked, she said.
The MSU administration has suspended classes and appealed to parents and the community that they are ensuring the safety of the students.
“We are aware of the heightened sensitivities and concerns that arise from such a tragic event, and we want to assure everyone that we are taking every measure possible to protect our students, faculty, and staff,” they said in a statement.
While the school administration said there will be no lockdowns or evacuation of its members, students were seen leaving the campus, as various provincial LGUs announced that they had arranged transportation to fetch students to return to their respective provinces.
MSU officials said they want classes to resume as the examination week is set prior to the Christmas break.
The MSU Office of Information, Press and Publication has confirmed four people dead, including two students, Janine Arenas and Junrey Barbante; faculty member Evangeline Aromin, and an MSU employee, Riza R. Daniel.
Various institutions and groups condemned the attack on MSU.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said that “such violence should not only be denounced; it should also be renounced as a way of seeking redress by every peace-loving Filipino.”
CBCP president Bishop Pablo Virgilio David echoed the MSU statement stating that “violence has no place in a civilized society, and it is particularly abhorrent in an institution of higher learning like MSU, a bulwark of peace, harmony, solidarity, reverence for life and humanity. This attack is an assault on our core values and our commitment to creating a safe and inclusive community for all.”
“We could not agree more. With them, we reaffirm our unrelenting commitment to peace and our repudiation of violence,” said David.
Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, on Sunday, deplored the incident as “the most terrible and damnable terroristic act against innocent worshippers perpetrated on a Christian holy day.”
“Voices will cry for revenge. But the law of Christ is not one of retaliation, but a law of love – love and pray for your enemies,” the 84-year-old cardinal said.
The University of the Philippines, whose president Angelo Jimenez comes from Agusan del Sur, said “State universities should serve as safe spaces for all its constituents, and as academic bastions where conflicts are discussed, debated, and resolved rather than exacerbated. It is imperative for all of us to be united in our mandate to cultivate an atmosphere where diversity and dialogue thrive.”
A joint statement of the Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Mindanao also called on national and local law enforcement agencies “to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous act.”
The statement is signed by Atty. Geraldine Quimosing-Tiu, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Mindanao Chapter; Leonilo Claudio, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Mindanao; Keisuke Nakao, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Mindanao, Inc., and Antonio Peralta, chairman of European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
“We as the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in Mindanao stand together with the government and communities that reject all forms of violence. We look at this unfortunate incident as one of the hurdles in working towards a peaceful Mindanao for all. We stand together with the government in pursuing a peaceful Mindanao for all.” (davaotoday.com)bombing, Marawi, Mindanao, MSU, philippines