By Francis Wakefield
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana Tuesday admitted that there may be a lapse in the security procedure that led to the two explosions at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday.
The twin explosions, it was recalled, resulted in the death of five soldiers, one Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel and 14 civilians.
Reports added that of the 97 persons hurt, 15 are soldiers, two coast guard personnel, and 78 civilians.
In an interview, Lorenzana admitted that as early as August 2018, they already received information that the Abu Sayyaf Group/Ajang-Ajang group, is planning to conduct bombings at Catholic churches in Jolo, Basilan and Zamboanga with Jolo as the most probable target.
“There were reports that Catholic churches in Jolo, Basilan and Zambo would be bombed as early as August 2018 with Jolo as most probable. 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. Other soldiers who were getting in to rescue the victims of the first explosion inside the church were also hit by the second bomb,” Lorenzana said.
“While we were briefed that all people going inside were searched, it is possible that there may be lapse in the procedure,” he added.
Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) Chief Colonel Noel Detoyato, said the mere fact that a bomb exploded inside the church means there were lapses.
“As to how it actually happened, we will never know as the soldier on duty also died in the blast,” Detoyato said.
“Meanwhile, we will reconstruct the events leading to the blast through interviews and data gathering so that we can effect changes in the existing security protocols,” he added.
Help of civilian population needed
Meanwhile, Lorenzana said the possible involvement of the civilian population will be a great help in capturing those involved in the deadly bombings in Jolo, Sulu on Sunday.
In an interview over radio station DZRH, Lorenzana said the active participation of the people living in communities around Sulu province will be a big boost in the all our war launched by the government especially against the Abu Sayyaf.
Lorenzana said the order by President Rodrigo Duterte to crush the local terrorist group came about as authorities did not discount the possibility of the Abu Sayyaf’s involvement in the bombing.
“So ang all out war natin dito ay paigtingin lang natin yung operation at saka i-involve natin yung mga civilian [So part of our all out war is to intensify our operation and to involve the civilians],” Lorenzana said.
Lorenzana, at the same time, said the challenge on the part of the soldiers in the area is to convince the people including those helping the Abu Sayyaf get refuge, to provide them with the necessary information.
“So ito ngayon all out war namin ay tuloy ang ating operation, combat operation, intelligence operations [So right now we have an all out war and our operation, combat operation, intelligence operations continues] and hopefully we can get the people to cooperate with us to finally identify these people, who are they,” Lorenzana said.
“Kasi although meron tayong mga impormasyon sino sila ay napakahirap silang hanapin dahil nga wala tayong impormasyon sa loob. Napakahirap maglagay ng mga intelligence operative dyan dahil kung hindi nila kilala iyung tao ay hindi sila magbibigay ng impormasyon [Although we have information who they are, its hard to find them because we don’t have information on the inside. It’s hard to put intelligence operative there because if they don’t know the person they won’t give any information],” he added.