DAVAO CITY: A car bomb exploded on Tuesday afternoon in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, just minutes after the convoy of Rep. Leni Robredo passed near the area.
At least three people were injured in the blast.
The car was parked near a gas station along Jose Abad Santos Street when it went off.
It was not immediately known whether Robredo was the target of the bombing, but the politician was there to campaign ahead of the May national elections.
The bombing occurred as locals were celebrating the Catholic feast of Nuestra Señora dela Candelaria.
Robredo, who is running for Vice President under the Liberal Party (LP), denounced the bombing.
The Camarines Sur lawmaker arrived in Tacurong at 9:30 a.m. for a series of meetings.
“I strongly condemn the bombing, especially at this time when we are continually pushing for progress in Sultan Kudarat and in Mindanao as a whole,” she said.
“I am safe, but I extend my concern to those three people who were wounded,” Robredo added.
The lawmaker called on authorities to go after perpetrators of the crime to bring them to justice.
“This incident won’t deter me from pursuing lasting peace in Mindanao,” Robredo said.
No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it happened after government officials admitted that there is no more hope for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) under the Aquino administration.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd blamed lawmakers for the failure of the BBL, an offshoot of a peace agreement that the government signed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in 2014.
The MILF has repeatedly warned that violence may erupt if Congress fails to pass the proposed law that seeks to create an autonomous Bangsamoro region.
In December, MILF rebels attacked civilians and killed at least a dozen of them in Tulunan town in North Cotabato province near Tacurong.
Police said the violence was an offshoot of a long-standing land conflict.
Many politicians and residents in the proposed expanded Muslim region rejected the BBL and wanted out of the deal, citing various reasons and the failure of the Aquino government and peace negotiators from both sides to include recommendations submitted by the provinces in the autonomous region.
Last year, villagers in the town of Wao in Lanao del Sur, one of five provinces under the proposed Muslim region, rejected the BBL, saying they do not want to be included in the new Bangsamoro territory.
The villagers said after the peace deal was signed, several Muslim groups have emerged and started claiming farmlands owned by Christians as theirs and invoking their ancestral rights in Lanao del Sur.
Now, many residents have started arming themselves for protection fearing that once the new Bangsamoro autonomous government is installed, Muslims will take away their lands that they inherited from their clan. Majority of the town’s 40,000 inhabitants are Christians.
Some villagers said several groups of Maranao, one of several Muslim tribes in Mindanao, have started putting up markers and begun claiming farmlands as their ancestral domain.
The markers were destroyed by landowners.
In Sultan Kudarat province, villagers in the town of President Quirino were also facing the same dilemma.
Many of them have purchased illegal weapons to protect their families and lands from unjustified takeover by Muslims who warned them that they should leave the town immediately once the Bangsamoro autonomous region is installed because they would take over their farms.
The MILF–a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996–had fought fiercely for decades for self-determination and had been accused of terrorism in the past and of coddling Malaysian and Indonesian jihadists.