By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang has assured that the Philippines remains a safe place, even going to the extent of saying that there is no need to expand the coverage of martial law despite the bombings that rocked Mindanao the past week.
“We would like to assure the general public that they can go about their normal activity life. Our country is still a safe haven,” Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said following the bombing of a mosque in Zamboanga City, which claimed the lives of two Muslim religious followers. The recent bombing occurred just days after the twin blasts at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, which killed 21 people.
In his press briefing, Panelo reiterated that the Palace condemns the attacks which took place days before some parts of North Cotabato and Lanao hold a plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
“We’re condemning it and it shows that terrorism is rearing its barbaric and ugly head by having another bombing in that area,” he said Thursday.
Panelo said the bombings are isolated cases and that the Philippines is still a safe place where people can continue with their daily activities.
“There is no necessity for any expansion of martial law as the President has repeatedly declared,” he added, referring to the still effective martial law that was declared in Mindanao because of the attacks in Marawi City by pro-Islamic State terrorists.
He, however, said the attacks are only more reason why martial law in Mindanao should not be lifted.
“Well, if there was no martial law there I’m certain it will not only be one or two as what happened during the Marawi incident,” he said.
Government is ready
Meanwhile, the Palace official said authorities are ready to address any issue that may arise following the bombings. According to Panelo, Malacañang is considering the said attacks as a challenge to the government’s capability to protect the people.
“We look at it as a taunting challenge to the capability of this government to provide safety to the inhabitants there. And so the armed forces will unleash its might and weaponry against these mass murderers,” he said.
“The government will respond to whatever succeeding events that may happen. But we’re ready for any eventuality in that area,” he added.
Panelo also defended the government forces, saying someone who is determined to disrupt order cannot be simply stopped.
“As we have repeatedly said, a determined killer, a determined bomber cannot be just stopped by anyone. They will always find ways and means to pursue that goal.
But that doesn’t mean we are not doing our job,” he said.
Panelo, on the other hand, said that the government is ready to accept any kind of assistance from the international community to put an end to the threat of terrorism in the country.
The Palace official said that countries like the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and Canada already expressed condolences and their intention to support and give whatever assistance that they Philippines may need.
“Wala tayong hinihingi (We are not asking for anything),” he said.
“We will accept anything that they will offer. If they will offer weapons or intelligence, then) we will welcome it,” he added.
“Anything that can stop terrorism in this country we will welcome in the same way that other countries will welcome such offer of assistance,” he added.
Plebiscite won’t be affected
Meanwhile, Panelo expressed confidence that it will take more than just the bombings to scare the Filipinos from going out and vote on the upcoming plebiscite for the BOL on Wednesday.
Panelo made the statement after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) raised concerns about the plebiscite being affected because people will be afraid for their safety.
“They are just speculating because they are saying that because of a bomb people are now scared,” he said.
“They’re just alert now, vigilant and cautious but they will vote,” he added.
“Filipinos cannot be cowed by terroristic acts. For a while medyo kakabahan lang sila. Ganyan naman tayong mga Filipino eh (They will be cautious for some time but you know Filipinos). We always manage to stand up in times of distress,” he continued.
Meanwhile, Panelo said that the government is still looking into the claims of the President that the Jolo, Sulu blasts were a caused by suicide bombers.
He said that according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, they are still looking into other leads because suicide bombers are not common in the country.