COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Two former bishops who had served in Sulu condemned the Jolo cathedral bombing and urged Catholics to pray for peace in the island province.
A bomb went off at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel early Sunday morning as people were about to hear mass followed by another blast in the church’s parking lot as soldiers were responding to the first explosion. According to reports late Sunday, 27 people were killed in the attack and more than 80 were injured.
Former Jolo bishop Angelito Lampon and Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, both of the Oblate of Mary Immaculate congregation, described as “desecration of a sacred place” Sunday’s bombing of the Jolo cathedral in a joint statement released late Sunday.
Quevedo, archbishop emeritus of the Diocese of Cotabato, had served as priest in Sulu, where the OMI congregation has humanitarian missions.
“As former religious leaders in Jolo we totally condemn the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral,” the two OMI missionaries said.
The OMI has been involved in humanitarian work in Sulu and nearby island towns in Tawi-Tawi since after World War II.
“We strongly appeal to our security and military forces to flush out the perpetrators of this barbaric crime and bring them to justice. May the One God of all preserve us from evil and lead us to the way of peace,” Lampon and Quevedo said in their statement, referring to Sunday’s bombing of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral in downtown Jolo.
Jolo is the capital town of Sulu, a poor province where political clans employ private armed groups. The Abu Sayyaf, which has been engaged in kidnapping and piracy in the waters along the boundary with Indonesia and Malaysia, also operates from the island province.
MNLF faction condemns bombing
The largest and most politically-active faction in the Moro National Liberation Front also condemned the bombing.
Yusoph Jikiri and Muslimin Sema, leaders of the MNLF group that openly supports the peace overture between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have also called on Sulu residents to help authorities in the investigation into the bomb attack.
“We condemn that incident. That dastardly act will not dampen our zeal to continue helping the government find a lasting solution to the security woes hounding the local communities for decades now,” said Sema, former mayor of Cotabato City.
A separate faction led by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari is based in Sulu.
ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman said Monday Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares, director of the regional police, has enlisted the help of local officials in trying to identify the culprits.
“That was an act of terror, nothing more, nothing less. Everything is being done now to identify the perpetrators for them to be prosecuted,” Hataman said.
Hataman said police have enlisted the help of senior members of the Islamic religious community in Sulu to help identify the bombers.
Peace adviser calls for calm
Presidential peace adviser Carlito Galvez Jr., a former Armed Forces and chief and who had previously been assigned to the Western Mindanao Command, urged people to unite in the aftermath of the attack.
“We have come a long way in our journey to achieve enduring peace in Mindanao. Now is not the time to cower and be intimidated by such a selfish and cowardly deed. Instead, let us show that we can work together and push through with our collective aspiration for a peaceful, united, and progressive Mindanao,” Galvez said.
Galvez appealed to the public to refrain making the situation worse by speculating about the attack on social media and let authorities complete their investigation.
The twin explosions at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cathedral happened within days of the ratification by plebiscite of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which creates the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as a replacement to the ARMM.
The BARMM is seen to address the neglect and injustices in the Muslim region while leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front believed the BARMM will isolate and addressed the problem of terrorism.
News5 reported Sunday that the MILF will also be helping with the investigation into the bombing.