KABACAN, North Cotabato: Police and military authorities here are hunting down two men who planted and set off an improvised explosive device at a busy street here Sunday night that left one student dead and 16 others wounded.
The provincial government also offered a Php100,000 reward for anyone who can provide information leading to the identification of the suspects and arrest of the suspects believed to be members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“It was a diversionary tactic, the bomb has the signature of BIFF,” Lt. Colonel Audie Edralin, 7th Infantry Battalion Commander, said. His unit covers the troubled town of Kabacan and Pikit, all in North Cotabato.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza was enraged by the incident, describing it as “barbaric and satanic.”
“The provincial leadership condemns such barbaric act. It is downright disappointing to see innocent lives affected by this cowardly act. This is insane,” the angry Mendoza said.
“As your Governor, I am hurt and angry. The government invested so much resources and developmental programs to bring peace and order in North Cotabato. Unfortunately, there are those who want to sabotage all our sincere efforts,” she said.
“I ask every Cotabateño not to succumb to fear but stand our ground against those who bring conflict and criminality in our province. Christians, Muslims and Lumads should not allow animosity to divide Cotabato,” Mendoza said even as she called for everyone to be vigilant.
Killed while being rushed to Davao City was Monique Mantawil, 19, development communication student of University of Southern Mindanao (USM), according to Sr. Inspector Jarwin Castroverde, Kabacan PNP officer-in-charge.
Castroverde said the improvised bomb fashioned from 60 or 81 mm mortar was set off at about 7 p.m. while students, pedestrians were walking near the overpass in front of Kabacan Central Pilot Elementary School.
No one has claimed responsibility in the attack.
Edralin said another IED was found by Army bomb experts atop the overpass and was safely defused minutes after the blast at 7 p.m.
“The bombs which was set off through mobile phone has the signature of the BIFF,” Edralin said.
“Join me in embracing peace as we demand justice for all the victims of this senseless adventurism,” she said.
Over the weekend, two persons died when hit by stray mortars at the height of skirmishes between BIFF and the military in Maguindanao-North Cotabato borders, triggered by BIFF harassment on Army detachments.
Police authorities in the province are yet to solve the bombing of a United Church of Christ in the Philippines that left three persons dead.
Aside from BIFF, the province is faced with threats from communist New Peoples’ Army and drug syndicates.
“Help us contain the problem of illegal drugs because most of those who carry out violence are involved in the use of drugs,” she appealed to the public.
“Peace and order is everybody’s business, let’s support our PNP and AFP, your government is working for the safety of all but we need your support,” she said, adding that financial assistance will be extended to the family of the lone fatality.
Following the incident, more police checkpoints were set up along major highways and public places like bus terminals, Churches and public markets.