While refusing to categorically identify the Abu Sayyaf Group as responsible for a deadly blast in Davao City on Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte said the Islamist group had made threats prior to the explosion that killed at least 12 people and hurt dozens of others.
Duterte made the pronouncement early Saturday morning at Roxas Ave. in Davao City, the site of the explosion that happened a few hours earlier.
“They gave us the warning. Not only in Jolo, but in other places. We were forewarned, we were ready,” he said, noting that his top law enforcement and intelligence people were in Davao City for that reason.
“Unfortunately, we cannot frisk or order people to stop and search because that could be fascistic. Then that is not a democracy anymore. That is the price of being a democratic state.”
But Duterte left the door open to the possibility that other groups, such as those involved in illegal narcotics, were behind the incident.
“Everybody is a suspect. Of course, ASG made the threat. We will look into that,” he said.
“There will be, I said, a reprisal for all of these things. Maybe because of the Sulu incident. At least we know who made the threats.”
Duterte noted that he had warned against the dangers of terrorism over the past few weeks in a series of speeches before law enforcement groups.
For now, however, the incident will be treated as a police matter while investigation is ongoing.
“We have leads, but I will not reveal it to the public as of now,” he said.
Duterte remarks toward the Abu Sayyaf echoed the statement made by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who indicated that the group launched the attack to get back in retaliation for the intensified operations that the Armed Forces of the Philippines launched against the Abu Sayyaff over the past week.
“While nobody has come up to own the act we can only assume that this was perpetrated by the terrorist group Abu Sayaff that has suffered heavy casualties in Jolo in the past weeks,” Lorenzana said.
“We have predicted this and has warned our troops accordingly but the enemy is also adept at using the democratic space granted by our constitution to move around freely and unimpeded to sow terror,” he added.
Lorenzana said the Eastern Command in Davao City had been directed to assist the Philippine National Police in maintaining peace and order in the city and in the apprehension of the perpetrators.
Army investigators have recovered a suspected shrapnel at the site of the blast.
“They will also aid in gathering intelligence information and in conducting investigations to get to the bottom of this unfortunate incident,” Lorenzana said.
Duterte had been mayor of Davao for most of the past two decades, before winning national elections in a landslide this year and being sworn in as president on June 30.
Duterte became well known for bringing relative peace and order to Davao with hardline security policies, while also brokering local deals with Muslim and Communist rebels.
However, in 2003, a bomb attack blamed on Muslim rebels at Davao airport killed more than 20 people.
As president, Duterte quickly launched peace talks with the Communists, who last week agreed to an indefinite ceasefire.
Duterte has also in recent weeks pursued peace talks with the two main Muslim rebel groups. Its leaders have said they want to broker a lasting peace.
However, Duterte also ordered a military offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, a small but extremely dangerous group of militants that has declared allegiance to Islamic State and vowed to continue fighting.
Fifteen soldiers died on Monday in clashes with the Abu Sayyaf on Jolo island, one of the Abu Sayyaf’s main strongholds about 900 kilometers from Davao.
See more info on the video below:
Source: GMA News