Lorenzana says Basilan blast being probed; AFP discounts ISIS claim
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the public not to make conclusions over the explosion that killed 10 people in Basilan.
“As we speak, there are several theories circulating regarding the circumstances surrounding the incident. Although we are not discounting them entirely, all of these are just pure speculation at this time and are now the subject of an investigation being conducted by a joint team of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP),” he said in a statement issued Wednesday.
“As such, I enjoin everyone not to jump to any conclusion and just allow our investigators to do their job,” he added.
The AFP also refused to acknowledge the claim of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group that it was responsible for the explosion.
“Any terrorist group or organization can conveniently claim responsibility and ride on the incident for their own glorification. Jumping into it will be like aiding their narrative and lending themselves (the people) as instruments of terrorists’ propaganda,” Col. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesman said.
“Nevertheless, we are not discounting the possibility that they (ISIS) are indeed responsible?just as there is also a possibility that other group besides the Abu Sayyaf Group could be responsible in that dastardly and cowardly terrorist act,” he added.
The military clarifies one of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member identified as CAA Gerry Inso who was reported dead is alive making the number of fatalities at 10.
Lorenzana said government forces will apply its full force to give justice for the victims.
“The Department of National Defense condemns in the strongest possible terms the incident which transpired yesterday in Lamitan City which resulted in the death of members of our security forces and innocent civilians as well as the wounding of others,” he said.
“It is important to note that the explosive did not reach its intended objective because of our alert security forces. Sadly, some of them paid the ultimate price for protecting our people. Our hearts reach out to all the loved ones they have left behind,” he noted.
"Meanwhile, I would like to say to those who are behind this cowardly and indiscriminate act of violence that justice will catch up with you and it will come in the form that you least expect and at a time that you will not predict,” he added.
Lorenzana said the government will provide necessary support for families of the victims.
Following the explosion, Captain Armando Balilo, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman said Admiral Elson Hermogino, the PCG Commandant directed all operating units particularly in Coast Guard District Southwestern Mindanao to tighten the security operations in relation the n their areas of responsibility.
“All PCG units are directed to level up to maximum security alert and intensify vigilance at all times as strong presence of terrorist/international bombers thereby threatening public safety and security,” said Hermogino.
“The district commander in Southwestern Mindanao (SWM) is there to assess the need to augment personnel in coordination with other security forces in the area,” he added.
Balilo said the Acting Commander of Coast Guard SWM, Captain Joseph Coyme with the Task Force Zamboanga, headed by Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, held an emergency meeting and immediately tightened security patterned from the Zamboanga siege.
“Of all the island provinces in Mindanao, Zamboanga is considered as the center of business operations,” he said.
“The security operations involve all vessels arriving and departing the Island provinces like Basilan and Jolo and even neighboring islets which do not usually undergo check points, must be subject to inspection and paneling of K9 dogs,” he added.
Balilo said the PCG also advised all public to be vigilant at all times and report any suspicious activities within their areas. Robina Asido/DMS