THERE were no casualties in the bombing during a local boxing match Wednesday night in Hilongos, Leyte but the explosion left 32 people injured.
A visit to Hilongos yesterday by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino confirmed this.
That, as Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo yesterday apologized for the “false alarm” that at least 10 people were killed.
“The earlier report that 10 persons [have been killed] was false alarm. Sorry, the information sent to me last night and forwarded to [Spokesperson] Abella was unofficial,” Taguiwalo said in a text message sent to journalists.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella yesterday said Taguiwalo had told him that 10 people were reported dead and 20 others injured in the explosion at the Hilongos town plaza.
Hilongos is celebrating its town fiesta and the boxing match was one of the fiesta activities.
Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the bombing may have been perpetrated by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) based on how the improvised explosive device (IED) used was made.
The bomb was made from an 81-millimeter mortar. And there were two bombs left at the scene but only one exploded, he said.
“We can trace the unexploded bomb as a signature of the BIFF. It’s an IED made from 81 mm mortar and attached with a cellphone. This is a signature of a terrorist group in the South, the BIFF,” dela Rosa said.
Dela Rosa said the PNP had no prior knowledge about a bombing attack to be carried out in Hilongos.
He said a group of Muslims involved in the illegal drug trade and fake money trade may have hired the BIFF to conduct the bombing, in retaliation for the PNP’s operations against them.
“These groups are related and this is where we are focusing on right now. We have been saying that these bombs are for sale. They are bombs for sale. They are manufactured in Mindanao and they are for sale,” he said.
The BIFF is a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The MILF signed a peace accord with the government in 2004 after decades of fighting with government forces.
Welfare Secretary Taguiwalo said 33 people were injured-23 were treated at the Hilongos Hospital and 10 were rushed to the Baptist Hospital.
The hospital treatment was validated by Presidential Assistant Dino yesterday during his visit to Hilongos.
Dino said 16 of the injured have been released from the hospital, while the 16 others were were confined in government-owned and private hospitals.
Dino met yesterday morning with the municipal officials, police and military officials and discussed about the bomb attack and the treatment of the victims.
“On behalf of President Duterte who is also shocked and saddened about the incident, I strongly condemn the attacks. The President hopes that the attackers will be brought to court to answer for the crime. We sympathize with the victims and their families,” Dino said.
Dino said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Philhealth and other government agencies are now coordinating in giving all the assistance that the victims need.
He said that President Duterte will also visit Hilongos today to see the victims and be assessed of the situation by the investigators.
In an interview via Facebook, couple Bohbie and Ruth Flores, residents of Hilongos town, said they were near the area when the blast happened.
“The explosion happened at 9:05, based on my watch. I was near the area. I responded immediately when I reached the hospital. The total casualties are 33, all minor injuries. A child, an old lady and a pregnant woman were some of those injured,” said Bohbie, a service representative at the Philippine Red Cross-Hilongos Chapter.
“My husband and I were going to LandBank to withdraw some money, which is located beside the municipal hall entrance. We were caught in traffic upon passing by Plaza Rizal because there were many people. We heard an explosion after 15 seconds upon reaching LandBank. I thought that it was just a transformer that exploded. People were running when I looked outside. My husband tried to ask people what happened but nobody answered him,” Ruth said in vernacular.
“There was another explosion after six seconds. It was not that loud so we drove away from the people. We heard another explosion again in Eskina Sa Buwan (name of street). We received calls that many were injured,” she said.
Following the bombing in Hilongos, Leyte, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 is not taking any chances that a similar attack will happen in Central Visayas.
But, Regional Director Noli Taliño said they have not received specific or direct terror threats that might cause havoc in the region and that their security arrangement is in place.
He said there is no cause for the public to be alarmed but encouraged them to report any unusual activities or suspicious-looking persons to the nearest authorities.
The full alert status of the police in the region remained.
Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) Director Joel Doria said more policemen and other law enforcers are being kept on alert.
After the explosion incident in Hilongos Leyte, Acting Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella urged the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) to be on high alert status.
Labella, in his news conference yesterday, said there is a need for both the police and the civilian sector to be more vigilant because the Sinulog 2017 and the Miss Universe 2017 swimsuit competition will be held in the city next month. Sunnex
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 30, 2016.
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