MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato: President Rodrigo Duterte personally showed up here to sympathize with victims of the Christmas Eve grenade attack outside a church that injured at least 17, including a police officer.
The President’s visit started when presidential choppers arrived at about 4 p.m. He then went to Aniceto Pesante Memorial Hospital and briefly talked to blast victims.
One of the blast victims said she had a very memorable and emotional meeting with the President.
Cheyserr Rosete, 28, who was hit in the legs while standing outside the church, was grateful the President saw her. “He looked at me straight in the eyes as he talked to me,” Rosete told reporters.
Jessa Banlawi said the Mass was about to end when the explosion occurred. She too was happy to see the President.
“He vowed the government will shoulder all our medical expenses,” Banlawi recalled the President as telling her. The President gave money to the blast victims.
She said she wanted to have a “selfie” with the President but the visit was quick. “His visit means so much to
us blast victims.”
The President also received a security briefing from local and regional police officials and talked to local officials of Midsayap, led by Mayor Romeo Arania.
As he left the hospital, a huge crowd of Midsayapenios greeted the President in front of Pesante Hospital. “Duterte! Duterte!” the crowd chanted as the President emerged from the medical facility.
He went to the crowd and shooks hands with them, especially with the elderly who greeted him “Merry Christmas.”
At least 17 persons were injured, including a police officer, after two men on a motorbike tossed a hand grenade under a parked police car on Roosevelt Street.
The grenade attack came as the Christmas Eve Mass was in progress inside the Santo Niño Archdiocesan Shrine at about 9:30 p.m..
Supt. Bernard Tayong, Midsayap town police chief, said an investigation showed the attack could have been in retaliation for the police’s successful anti-drug operation.
Tayong said several witnesses have come forward to share information after they saw the suspects hurriedly leaving the site after throwing a grenade.
Mayor Romeo Arania of Midsayap said he believed the attack was not directed toward the Church but to the police.
Peace, food on the table
In his Christmas Day message, Duterte vowed to make people feel safer and more comfortable anywhere in the Philippines.
He also vowed to bring peace to the country and more food on the table of every Filipino.
“We, in the government, are walking the extra mile to offer the olive branch of peace to all,” the President said.
“As we gather with our family and loved ones, let us reflect the significance of the birth of Christ. The Nativity story of more than 2,000 years ago is observed by the Christian faith as a season of peace,” he added.
“Christmas is also a season of giving and sharing. This wonderful feeling is seen in the faces of our hopeful children, and reflects in the hearts of our loving and cheerful family members and friends. The true essence of Christmas is, thus, built on the message of both peace and generosity.”