By Joseph Jubelag, Martin Sadongdong and Francis Wakefield
An improvised explosive device (IED) placed inside a bag and left behind by a man beside a parked motorcycle exploded at about 8:34 Tuesday night in Isulan town, Sultan Kudarat killing three persons and injured 34 others.
The explosion occurred in Barangay Kalawag 3 amidst the festive celebration of the town’s 61st founding anniversary and the 7th Hamungaya festival.
Soccsksargen Police Regional Office (PRO-12) spokesperson Chief Inspector Aldrin Gonzales identified the fatalities as Davy Shane Alayon, 7, Lenie Ombrog, 52, and Welmark John Lapides, 21, of Purok Katilimban, Barangay Sampao, Sultan Kudarat.
The injured victims were rushed to the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Hospital, Holy Nazarene Hospital, Matias Clinic Hospital and Isulan Medical Specialist Hospital.
Two of the injured victims are soldiers — Master Sergeant Capilitan of the 39th Infantry Battalion and Sergeant Timjar Hambali of the 33rdInfantry Battalion.
Authorities are closely monitoring the condition of one WelmarkJhonLapidez, 25, of Barangay Masiag, Sultan Kudarat who suffered head injuries.
Chief Inspector Ronnie Dardo, Sultan Kudarat police spokesperson said a member of Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) saw a man leave a bag beneath a parked motorcycle along the national highway.
According to the witness, the suspect reportedly mixed with the crowd pretending to look at items for sale in the night market, and disappeared. Then the explosion.
Gonzales said Explosive and Ordnance operatives discovered two other improvised explosives a few meters from where the explosion occurred. One was detonated while the other went off.
Malacañang, in a statement condemned the Isulan incident and vowed to apply the full force of the law.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing in Sultan Kudarat last night,” Roque said. “We will apply the full force of the law.”
“Authorities are now investigating the incident and we vow to bring the perpetrators of this brazen attack to justice,” he added.
Sultan Kudarat Gov. PaxMangudadatu offered a P1 million bounty for the arrest of the suspects responsible for the bomb attack. Mangudadatu assured the victim’s families that the provincial government will shoulder their medical expenses.
Special Assistant to the President Lawrence “Bong” Go said the victims will receive aid from the government.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division said that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were behind the blast.
Capt. Arvin Encinas, the spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said based on their initial investigation the BIFF perpetrated the bombing as part of their retaliatory attacks in response to the all-out offensive launched by the military against them.
“The attack is (also) part of their retaliation, to create, sow fear in the community,” Encinas said.
Encinas said the BIFF took advantage of the ongoing festival.
“They took advantage of ‘yung mataong lugar (the large crowd) though their primary target is our security forces,” Encinas said.
“During that time at around 8:30 in the evening while our troops were conducting mobile patrol they accosted two suspicious individuals who left a bag in front of an establishment (H and J Marketing). After being accosted, they hurriedly left with the bomb suddenly exploding wounding and killing people,” he added.
Encinas said fortunately, a KM450 military truck was nearby and managed to block the shrapnels from the IED that exploded.
“Kung wala ‘yung military truck baka mas mahigit pa sa 36 o dalawang patay ‘yung nagging biktima (If the military truck was not there, there could be more victims),” Encinas said.
Philippine National Police Chief Director General Oscar Albayalde placed all police forces in Mindanao under full alert status.
Extended Martial law mulled
Mindanao is still under Martial law and Malacanang said extending martial law is now an option following the Isulan incident.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said the bombing incidentis not a good sign as it put several lives in danger.
“‘Yung mga signs na ganito hindi magandayan e. Lives in danger na lang. Piyesta, pasasabugan lang (These signs are never good. Lives are placed in danger. They would just bomb a festival). How would you feel?” he said.
Medialdea said that the Palace will observe the developments before deciding on whether or not to recommend for the extension of martial law in Mindanao.
“Not necessarily [recommend] but tignan natin (let’s see) as it goes,” he said.
“It’s an option but nandiyan yun. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible. But kung ganito pa rinangnangyari, anong gagawin natin? Upolangtayodiyan (But if something like this continues to happen, should we just down)?” he added.
The other victims were identified as Arnold LayogLosanes, 40, of Brgy. Kudanding, Isulan, S.K.; Jomar Ali Montero Sacampong; Jessa Claire Villaneva; ReymunMalvez; Ibrahim Bryan Sucampung Bernal; NassipGomgao; RomelUba; JomarCapulong; Francisco Suerte; AzrelMalvez; Mary Jane Lacson; Serenela Pauline Lacson; TanateJuduhan; JenexAcolador; RenalynAlion; Jessa Villanueva; CristalePatanga; MarmieSalawangen; RodelSinghan; Nikki john Peramil; Jeffrey Bacalto; Nestor Ladrido; Rey Emma Blancada; Samira Degaosun; AnsawiDegaosun; GaniDegaosun; NassipinAcmad; LeonisaAlcaria, 47, of Brgy. Impao, Isulan, S.K.;MyleneDelava, 32, of Brgy. Sampao, Isulan, S.K.; Ryan Miguel Batolo; Christopher Siton. (With reports from Malu Cadelina Manar, Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos, and Aaron B. Recuenco)