LAWMAKERS at the House of Representatives condemned the bombing of a church in Jolo, Sulu that happened barely a week after the Commission on Elections announced the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).
The twin blasts, which happened Sunday morning, January 27, while a mass was ongoing at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel cathedral, killed at least 20 people and wounded 112 others.
PBA Party-list Representative and Sulu caretaker Jericho Nograles said the “cowardly act” will only strengthen the government’s efforts to rid Sulu of terrorists.
He called on the military and police to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.
“We offer our condolences to the families of the victims. We pray for your loss and grieve with you,” Nograles said.
“I trust President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his administration will do the best they can for Sulu and the Philippines,” he added.
Anak Mindanao (Amin) Party-list, in a statement, also condemned the “cowardly” and “selfish” act.
“Lubhang nakakalungkot at nakakabahala ang ganitong pangyayari,” Amin Representative Amihilda Sangcopan said.
Sangcopan expressed dismay over the incident, which happened despite the fact that Mindanao is under martial law and just after the first plebiscite for the BOL.
Amin called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) to conduct an independent and transparent investigation on the explosions.
“We send our fervent prayers for the families of the victims. May they find the strength they need during this unfortunate time. We urge the authorities to give these people and their families the justice they truly deserve,” Sangcopan said.
For Muntinlupa District Representative Ruffy Biazon, senior vice chairman of the House committee on national defense and security, the attack was a challenge to the efforts of the government to achieve peace in Mindanao.
“Targeting a place of worship on a day of worship not only ensures that there will be a big number of casualties but psychological, social and even religious impact as well,” Biazon said.
He said the incident highlights the need for the passage of the amendments on the Human Security Act, which he said is intended to not only prosecute those involved in terrorist acts but also pre-empt terrorist activities.
The House of Representatives, through the House committees on public order and safety and on national defense and security, is currently tackling bills that seek to amend the Human Security Act of 2007 to add three predicate crimes to the existing 12 on the definition of terrorism, namely, Republic Act (RA) 9208 or “Anti-Trafficking In Person Act of 2003, as amended; RA 9165 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002; and RA 10175 or “Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.”
The bill includes other punishable acts in addition to conspiracy to commit terrorism. These are: proposal to commit terrorism; inciting to terrorism; recruitment to terrorist organization; providing material support to terrorists or terrorist organization, foreign terrorist fighter, and glorification of terrorism.
It also seeks to amend the fixed penalty of “40 years of imprisonment” to “life imprisonment to death” to give leeway to the judge to impose the appropriate penalty after considering the circumstances present.
Biazon called on the authorities to immediately and thoroughly investigate the attack to determine the culprits and bring them to justice.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed responsibility for the twin blasts. (Keith A. Calayag/SunStar Philippines)