Duterte: 2 suicide bombers behind cathedral attack
Duterte’s comments run counter to statements by military and police officials yesterday, who said the bombs inside and outside the church in Jolo appeared to have been detonated remotely.
Duterte: 2 suicide bombers behind cathedral attack
Christina Mendez, Marc Jayson Cayabyab (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A couple set off the explosions at the Jolo cathedral that killed 21 people – mostly churchgoers – and wounded about 100 others, President Duterte suggested yesterday.

Citing intelligence information from the military, Duterte said the “brazen attack” was carried out by a woman and her husband who blew themselves up at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral during a Sunday morning mass.

The unidentified woman reportedly detonated the bomb inside the church while her “husband” detonated his explosive outside.

Slung around the woman’s neck was a crucifix, Duterte told reporters after the groundbreaking of the San Lorenzo Ruiz General Hospital in Barangay Panghulo, Malabon yesterday.

Duterte’s comments run counter to statements by military and police officials yesterday, who said the bombs inside and outside the church in Jolo appeared to have been detonated remotely.

Security camera footage of suspects believed to have planted the bombs has been shown to media.

If confirmed, it would be one of the first known cases of a suicide attack in the Philippines and would be consistent with details of a claim of responsibility by Islamic State via its Amaq news agency early on Monday.

Asked separately about Duterte’s comment, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said it was possible the second blast “may have been a suicide bomber.”

“The first bomb that exploded inside the church was apparently left behind by a certain woman,” he said.

“The second bomb that exploded at the entrance about a minute and a half after, may have been a suicide bomber as indicated by body parts strewn all over,” Lorenzana said.

The bombings came six days after a referendum on autonomy for the mainly Muslim region returned an overwhelming “yes” vote.

Judging from the magnitude of the explosions, the commander-in-chief said there’s a possibility the terror act was the handiwork of the Abu Sayyaf.

“Nobody, but nobody, can perpetuate that kind of terrorism, thereabouts in that area. I have no doubt, that is what the military told me, and that is what the police relayed to me,” Duterte said.

“That is always my order – destroy the Abu Sayyaf, destroy the NPA and destroy the drug organizations. If destroying is killing, if you are interested to know yet… better,” he stressed.

The Chief Executive also said he is willing to match the brutality of Abu Sayyaf terrorists. “Do not ever think you have a monopoly of evil in this planet. Hindi mo solo ang kababuyan (You’re not alone in depravity),” Duterte said.

The possible involvement of suicide bombers in the Jolo bombing was also raised earlier yesterday by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año in an interview with CNN Philippines.

“We are not discounting that because I have some information also, but not yet validated, that a couple were involved in the bombing,” he said.

“We are going to take punitive action,” Duterte declared. “It’s always a touch and go for us, we go there, we fight and look for the enemies of the state.”

He added that he is “guided” in his judgment by information provided by his security officials two days after the blasts.

The military, he said, is also looking at the possibility that a cellular phone device triggered the explosions. He also cited eyewitness accounts indicating the perpetrators had “support system.”

He admitted responsibility for “failure of governance” that led to loss of lives, saying authorities had been forewarned of impending terror attacks in Sulu by their intelligence counterparts in Indonesia and other allies.

“We were already warned, not only by Indonesia, by the rest of the… that is why there were roving military there,” he said.

“It’s not known in this country, magkapkap ka ng babae…sa simbahan lalo na (to frisk a woman, especially inside a church),” he said.

Duterte said the female suicide bomber may have breezed through the security cordon around the church as women are usually spared from frisking or body check.

But he insisted there were no lapses in security because the male bomber blew himself up outside the church.

“No, I don’t think so. No lapses, because the other bomber was outside, there was no reason for him to be frisked, either he was just passing by before blowing himself up,” he added.

“The woman was wearing a big cross on her chest, who would ever think… that would be Murphy’s Law ‘if anything can go wrong, it can go wrong’,” he said.

“(Any) misapprehension, misappreciation… but we are not washing our hands,” Duterte said.

“Every time there is death of a Filipino by violence – unless of course you fought it out with the military – that is a failure of governance to protect the people and the Filipino, and we admit on those lapses and our responsibility,” he explained.

Duterte said there were conflicting reports that the bombers were “foreigners.” “Indonesian, while the looks of it… no part of the body can be found. It exploded. It’s really suicide (bombing),” he said.

“When it’s rigged all over the body, and she would appear fat… you could see all around bits and pieces of flesh. We were even stepping on (small flesh), we were shy to walk around,” Duterte said, who inspected the blast site last Monday.

“What I get is from my briefer which comes from the intelligence people,” the President added, saying he read the briefer as early as 3 a.m. yesterday.

Duterte justified anew the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, criticizing Sen. Francis Pangilinan first for hitting his decision to declare martial law and ordering the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.


Earlier yesterday, Secretary Lorenzana said President Duterte is offering an undetermined amount of reward for the immediate capture or “neutralization” of the perpetrators of what officials considered as terror attacks.

“The President will give reward to anyone who can provide information that can lead to the arrest or elimination of those people (suspects),” Lorenzana said in Filipino in an interview over dzRH. He added the amount of the reward would be announced soon.

After inspecting the blast site at the Our Lady of Carmel on Monday, Duterte ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to destroy the Abu Sayyaf.

He also lashed out at the Middle East-based Islamic State, which he called “a movement of evil men” deserving of harsh treatment.

“It’s not even an ideology. The only way to fight them is to become evil also,” the President said during his visit.

The bombs went off some 15 seconds apart during a morning mass, killing at least 20 people – mostly churchgoers – and injuring over a hundred.

The violence prompted the defense chief to place Jolo on lockdown.

Also on Monday, Duterte ordered security forces to do whatever it takes to crush the perpetrators of the bombings.

He said the military and the police should take no prisoner. “You go out, you kill them. Period. I can’t accept surrender because that will mean having to feed you (expletives) – and you will just return to your old ways,” he said in Filipino.

He ordered the military to deploy the bulk of its arsenal to Jolo and destroy the Abu Sayyaf  “by whatever means.”

“I order you to destroy the organization,” he said. “Don’t think you’re the only one capable of sowing evil. If you can do it, I can do it.”

 At Malacañang yesterday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo defended Duterte’s call for an all-out war.

“When you say against the enemies of the state, [we refer to] those who use violence against the state. Those who want to destroy the democratic institutions of this country,” Panelo said at a press briefing.

“Those who kill, who sow terror, who bomb civilians, soldiers and policemen. These are the enemies of the state that the President is referring to, not the critics,” he added.

Panelo said nobody can undermine the President’s resolve to handle the Jolo bombings, citing his fervor in going after the terrorists behind the Marawi  siege.

“Look at what he did to Marawi. That’s a classic example of how this President can crush the enemies of the state,” he added.

He also justified the implementation of martial law which is being defended by the solicitor general anew before the Supreme Court.

He claimed the situation could have been worse without martial law.

“What’s important is, we can locate who the criminals are. It’s for them and I don’t think the people there will mind if the ultimate [goal] would be to catch them so there will be no danger,” he said.

AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said based on initial investigation, ammonium nitrate may have been the primary ingredient of the improvised explosive devices that exploded in Jolo.

Lorenzana, meanwhile, revealed intelligence reports on possible attacks on Catholic churches in Jolo, Basilan and Zamboanga as early as August 2018.

“Since then, the Jolo Cathedral was guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day. We will never know how the bombers got in or near the church as the soldiers guarding the main door all died,” he said. – With Michael Punongbayan, John Unson, Roel Pareno, Edith Regalado, Jess Diaz, Emmanuel Tupas

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