MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, December 29, linked the terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS) to the Christmas Eve bombing in Midsayap, Cotabato, and the Davao City blast in September.
“The ISIS seems to be everywhere. Samal, there was an explosion. In Midsayap, while the priest was giving a sermon on extrajudicial killings, pinaputok ‘yung simbahan niya (his church was bombed),” Duterte said during a one-on-one interview with Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa.
Ressa asked, “When you say the Midsayap bomb, that explosion is connected to ISIS?”
“Yes, and the Davao bomb explosion,” Duterte answered.
The President added, however, that he is “not ready” to share his information on the matter. (READ: Duterte confirms Maute terror group’s ISIS links)
Duterte takes the possible ISIS connection seriously. Before his series of media interviews on Thursday, he presided over a meeting with military and police officials on the recent bombing in Hilongos, Leyte, and the Midsayap bombing which left dozens injured.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, though Duterte said the Leyte explosion may have been related to drugs.
“I hope it will not get out of control. I had conference with top guys of the government, military. I saw them with the police. You have to not only appear strong, you have to be strong because this is another problem, it’s no joke,” he said.
‘Cousins with ISIS’
The first Philippine president to admit ISIS presence in the country, Duterte said he has discussed the ISIS threat with other world leaders.
“Yes, part of our discussions,” he said.
He said he some of his relatives may have even declared loyalty to the terror group.
“Prangka-prangka, may mga pinsan ako na nasa kabila, nasa MI (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), MN (Moro National Liberation Front). Iba, nababalitaan ko, nasa ISIS,” he said.
(To be frank, I have cousins on the other side, with MI and MN. Some, I heard, are with ISIS.)
He said sorry in advance should he encounter them in the future.
“Sabi ko, pasensyahan tayo (I said, let’s be understanding to each other). You are you and I am I, and I said, if we meet in one corner, so be it,” Duterte said.
Government troops continue their offensive against local terrorist groups that have supposedly pledged allegiance to ISIS, the Maute Group, and the Abu Sayyaf.
Duterte has previously said foreigners who are followers of ISIS are already in Mindanao indoctrinating young Moros.