STRIKING right at the heart of President Duterte’s dear Davao City, terrorists suspected to belong to the Abu Sayyaf group carried out a daring bomb attack at a night market before midnight Friday killing at least 15 people and injuring 69 others.
The carnage prompted the angry but calm President Duterte to declare a “state of lawlessness” and a “lockdown” of Davao City which has a reputation of being one of the most peaceful cities in the world. The President was in his official residence in the city when the bombing took place.
“We have to confront the ugly head of terrorism … We will take this as a police matter about terrorism,” said Duterte when he visited the blast site on Roxas Avenue just outside the posh Marco Polo Hotel.
The president clarified the state of lawlessness is not martial law and does not involve the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus even as it authorizes police and military searches of vehicles and people at checkpoints.
“We know that this is not a fascist state. I cannot control the movement of the citizens of the city and every Filipino has the right to enter and leave Davao. It is unfortunate we cannot stop and frisk anybody for just any reason. But I am declaring the entire country on alert,” he said.
Ten of the victims died on the spot after absorbing the impact of the explosion while the rest expired due to multiple shrapnel wounds while undergoing treatment at the Southern Philippines Medical Center and Davao Doctors Hospital. As of press time, police bomb disposal experts are still determining the type of explosive used in the attack which prompted the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police to go on full alert nationwide.
Killed and injured
The Davao City Social Services and Development Office released a list of the casualties in Friday night’s Davao explosion:
Killed and bought to Angel Funeral Homes were Larida, Daniel; Larida, Melanie Faith; SP01 Adremesin, Jay; Cagantas, Rogelio; Basilisco, Mercy; Mr. X; and Decolongon, Cristelle (already ferried to Surallah).
At the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes were: Merisido, Ruth; Salvador, Reynaldo; Biscocho, Eufemia; Reyes, Christian Denver; Sobrecary, Evelyn and two other unidentified persons.
Those injured, 66 on the CSSDO’s list, were brought to various hospitals in the city. These include Cartagenas, Rosa; Lopez, Sherry; Palima, Haemaccel; Palima, Daryl; Ang, Mary Jane; Sobrecarey, Reyna Joy; Saiyon, Perliza; Fuerte, Marivic; and a certain Ms. A; Usman, Junaeb; Jeukarnin, On Palao; Carayao, Jerome; Magardino, Jay; Bansil, Jeramil; Bansil, Myrna; Loreto, Joel; Claro, Annie Lee; Tagadaya, Princess; Cayao, Samuel; Cruz, Mary Grace; Gallardo, Julino; Biscocho, Eufemia; Masucat, Wilfredo; Salusugan, Joan Marie; Tayao, Samuel; Cruz, Mary Grace; Malang, Raihana; Rosal, Jenalyn; Magandig, Joy; Merioles, Gleen; Kimberly (from Tibungco); Puton, Mylene; Cape, Jean; Sarong, Trisha; Cruz, April Ann; Lamban, Losario; Larida, Dennis; Tagadaya, Steven; Esterno, Joel; Manalo, Fatima; Mr. B; Kara, Angeline; a certain Egbus, Michael; Rodriguez, Reezabeela; Rodriguez, Camille; Grecia, Anji Laura; Tumampos, Jay; Balili, Marieta; Reyes, Joanna; Torres, Donny; Goc-ong, Brando; Nacario, Erickson; Cabaral, Glenn; Camp
os, Errol; Uy, Flordeliza; Caniba, Jamil; Esportono, Lilibeth; Samonh, Dionane; Artigos, Melvin; Ampaso, Eldy; Manan, Farusi; Nacario, Emelita; Tandang, Karen; Bernales, Liezel; Padernal, Antonio and Merioles, Jasmin.
As the United States government offered its help in investigating the case, top AFP and PNP officials said post-blast investigators are sifting through the debris at the blast site as part of their effort to determine the type of bomb used. Initially, police who had sealed off the blast site reported finding traces of what appeared to be a powerful improvised explosive device fashioned out of a mortar ammunition believed to have been detonated by a cell phone.
National Capital Region Police Office director, Chief Superintendent Oscar D. Albayalde ordered a full alert in Metro Manila following the Davao bombing. All other police regional offices across the country were also placed on similar status.
AFP, PNP ready to do job
The AFP said it is all-set to fulfill its tasks under the “state of lawlessness” declared by President Duterte following the bombing in Davao City. “The AFP is prepared to undertake any task that will be issued in regard to the declaration of ‘state of lawlessness’ by the Commander-in-Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte,” AFP public affairs office chief, Colonel Edgard Arevalo said.
Arevalo said that AFP chief General Ricardo Visayas has issued a “continuing directive” for all military personnel to be vigilant and ready for any eventuality.
“We have predicted this and has warned our troops accordingly but the enemy is also adept at using the democratic space granted by our constitution to move around freely and unimpeded to sow terror,” he added.
Abu Sayyaf admits responsibility
Hours after the bombing, the Abu Sayyaf reportedly claimed responsibility for the carnage and warned of more attacks in the coming days. ASG spokesperson Abu Rami said the Davao attack is a “call for unity to all mujahideen in the country” amid the all-out offensive of the military against the group in Sulu and Basilan. He however said the attack in Davao City is not part of a tactic to divert the attention of government forces.
Rami’s statement came just after officials said they are eyeing possible retaliatory attacks from Abu Sayyaf terrorists whose lairs have been pounded by the military the past days or from drug lords being targeted by the aggressive crackdown against drugs ordered by Duterte from Day 1 of his presidency.
Malacanang indicated on social media that the Friday deadly blast in Davao City was a “narco-terrorist” act,
Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) secretary Martin Andanar on Saturday posted on social media:”The war on drugs continues. We remain committed to uphold the welfare of Filipino families because they are our #PartnerForChange”.
The Philippine National Police said the deadly blast could either be related to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs or its efforts against terrorism in Sulu.
“We can’t [help] but entertain the thought na baka mamaya part of narco-terrorism na rin ito. Baka gusto nila mag-ease up yung ating efforts against drugs, ma-shift yung ating attention,” PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said at a press conference in Camp Crame in Quezon City yesterday.
The explosion took place just hours after Duterte spoke at the inauguration of the Davao International Container Terminal and one day after PNP chief General Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa said a gunrunner they had caught earlier spoke of an alleged “plot” to kill the President.
PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Dionardo B. Carlos also on Thursday said there is no threat of an imminent Abu Sayyaf attack in Metro Manila although he said security forces are ready in case the bandit group tries to divert the government offensive in Sulu.
“We assure the public that the inter-agency meets regularly to do an assessment as to the level of threats in Metro Manila and other parts of the country,” he said.
“If it’s happening now down south, yung condition dito sa Metro Manila is different...Kung yung pangamba nila na tatakbo sila rito to divert yung ginagawang operation ng gobyerno down south, eh nakahanda yung ating forces sa Metro Manila is different. And our forces are ready amid fears that they will attack the capital,” Carlos said.
The Abu Sayyaf last Wednesday released a statement saying they are prepared for the soldiers after the Palace said it will send an additional 2,500 troops to help pursue the merciless bandits who have been going on a beheading spree.