MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said a wife and husband team of suicide bombers were responsible for the deadly blasts at the Jolo Cathedral last Sunday, January 27.
It's the first government confirmation that the Sunday attack was the work of suicide bombers, as announced by the Islamic State (ISIS).
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, January 29, Duterte said he received the information from the intelligence community.
"Either he was just passing by before blowing himself up. Ang problema kasi, yung babae was wearing a cross pa eh. Malaking cross sa dibdib niya eh," said the President.
(Either he was just passing by before blowing himself up. The problem was the woman was wearing a cross. It was a big cross on her chest.)
Asked if he was thus confirming it was a case of suicide bombing, he said, "Yes, blowing them up. Babae. Lalaki yung isa, mag-asawa (One was a man, they were a couple)."
According to Duterte, the bombing went like this: A woman wearing a big cross around her neck entered the church, then blew herself up in the middle of the Sunday Mass at 8 am. Because she was a woman, she did not appear suspicious to security personnel, said Duterte.
Her supposed husband stayed outside the church but near the entrance. Because he was outside, no security personnel frisked him, allowing him to blow himself up by the entrance.
This information, he said, was given to him through a "briefer" from intelligence agencies which he read at 3 am that day.
Told that some military officers were denying the bombing was the work of suicide bombers, Duterte said it was possible that the man detonated the bomb remotely.
"Yes, that's a possibility. But the eyewitnesses said it's the other way around. May kasama siguro, may support system (They had companions, a support system, maybe)," said Duterte.
The President added that the suicide bombers may have been foreign but on this, security reports are "conflicting."
"They say that it's Indonesian. Others say – from the looks of it, you can't see anything, no part of the body. Because of the explosion," he said in Filipino.
At least 23 people were killed and 109 others wounded in the attack. The death toll rose on February 4.
Abu Sayyaf to blame
Duterte said he has "no doubt" that the attack was masterminded by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
ASG commanders had previously pledged allegiance to ISIS.
"Yes, we are sure of that. Walang iba (no one else). Nobody but nobody can perpetrate that kind of terrorism. I have no doubt," he said, adding that this information came from the military.
The President, however, does not blame any security official for "lapses" that may have contributed to the bombing.
"If anybody will go wrong it can go wrong. Misapprehension," he said.
But he was quick to add that his administration accepts responsibility for the deaths.
"We are not washing our hands. Everytime there is a death of a Filipino by violence, unless of course they resisted police or military, that is a failure of governance to protect the people and we admit those lapses in our responsibility," said Duterte. – Rappler.com