HILONGOS, Leyte -- Despite suffering discrimination, members of Muslim community in this town have expressed their support to the ongoing police special investigation on the December 28, 2016 town plaza bombing.

Afarouk Solog, president of the Muslim community here who moved to the town 36 years ago, said the incident rocked the local Muslim community. Some townmates even labeled them as cohorts of bombers.

“What we are asking is not to generalize us. Isolate the suspects and let us work together to arrest them. We should work with each other to prevent any crime to happen,” Solog said.

Another Muslim resident of the town who works in a pharmaceutical company said that he has been discriminated in his workplace after the bombing incident.

“What we want now is to have parameters to inform the public that we have nothing to do with the blast. It is okay to be with us because we are only here to work and to do business,” said a Muslim resident who asked not to be named.

For almost 50 years now, Muslim residents have been living peacefully with Christians in this town as they engaged in trading business.

Hilongos, one of the busiest towns in Leyte’s fifth district, plays a major role in Muslim existence in Leyte province due to its port that connects the Island to Cebu and Bohol.

The town’s Muslim community has more than 200 residents, mostly of Maranao traders.

National Commission on Muslim Filipino Regional Director Malo Manonggiring urged fellow Muslims during Tuesday’s forum to become an ideal stakeholders of peace.

“Achieving peace is not only a concern neither of the mayor nor by the police and the military, but also our concern. We are here to assure our leaders that we will help them maintain peace and order and go against those who will destroy it,” Manonggiring said.

“Those who will destroy peace should be punished and be put in jail. We will police our rank so that this town and our province will be peaceful and ideal place to live in to anyone, no matter what belief they may have,” he added.

Manonggiring also assured the government that those who joined the peace forum will fully support the peace and order campaign of the local government and they will fight Mulims who use Qur’an’s to destroy peace.

Hilongos Mayor Albert Villahermosa expressed optimism that non-Christians in their town will be true to their promise of supporting the ongoing police investigation.

“I hope that they would true to their promise for the interest of people of Hilongos and for the interest of peace,” Villahermosa said.

“That bombing will never happen if no one helped them, so some people in Hilongos think that members of Muslim community helped the suspects carry out the attack. That is why I asked them that if they have any information they should report it to us,” the mayor added.

Villahermosa added that as far as peace and order is concerned, the local government unit is still on top and full control over members of the Muslim community.

The Philippine National Police regional office gave the task 60 days to properly identify the suspects and file charges against them in court.

Investigators said they have the names of suspects who belong to the Maute group, but refused to disclose details not until the filing of charges against them.

READ: Police: Maute group behind Hilongos town plaza blast

Names and identity of the suspects will be revealed in a press conference, which the PNP regional office will call in the next few weeks.

“We are still gathering additional evidences and we are asking help from the community to supplement us in identifying the suspects,” said Chief Inspector Alberto Renomeron Jr., former Hilongos police chief and member of the special task group.

“Our aim is an air-tight case, which we can serve arrest warrant to suspects,” he added.

The military that has been helping policemen in securing some towns in Leyte also hopes for the early resolution of the Hilongos bombing.

“Let’s just hope that police will be able to finish their investigation on the duration given to them so that we can give justice to Muslim community members who are now facing the consequences of the bombing incident,” said Colonel Francisco Mendoza Jr., Army 802nd brigade commander.

About 500 people were converged at the town plaza to watch an amateur boxing match on the night of December 28, 2016 when two improvised explosive devices went off around 9:30 p.m., wounding 32 people. The attack coincided with the town’s annual fiesta celebration. (PNA)