Military will ‘crush’ Jolo attackers, says Malacañang

Mara Cepeda

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Military will ‘crush’ Jolo attackers, says Malacañang

Vice President Leni Robredo and other officials also denounce the bombing of the Jolo Cathedral

This page is updated as more statements come in from Philippine officials.

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang and top government officials condemned the twin explosions that rocked the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, just days after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was ratified.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo vowed that the military would “crush” the perpetrators of the bombing which left at least 23 people dead and 109 others injured. The death toll was updated as of February 4.

Several politicians also extended their condolences to the victims’ families and called for justice to be served.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are already on heightened alert and have vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the bloody incident.

Read the full statements of Philippine officials condemning the bombing at the Jolo Cathedral:

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

By their act of terrorism and murder of soldiers and civilians, the enemies of the state have boldly challenged the capability of the government to secure the safety of the citizenry in that region. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals. 

We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars. The law will give them no mercy.

Vice President Leni Robredo

Nakakalungkot na sa panahon na umaasa tayo na matutuldukan na ang lahat ng kaguluhan dito sa Mindanao, mangyayari ulit ito. Sana ‘yong eleksyon na nangyari no’ng January 21 tsaka ‘yong eleksyon na mangyayari sa February 6, magiging mahalagang hakbang para makamtan na natin ‘yong kapayapaan.

(It’s saddening that during a time when we’re hoping for an end to all violence here in Mindanao, such an incident has taken place. I hope the plebiscite that happened on January 21 and will happen on February 6 would be an important step for us to achieve piece.)

Itong nangyari sa Sulu, dapat ‘di na mangyari uli. Mahalaga na ang salarin dito at tsaka ‘yong mga biktima, mabigyan talaga ng katarungan. Kasi kung hindi, talagang nae-embolden ‘yong iba na gumawa pa ng iba pang similar na hakbang.

(What happened in Sulu should not happen again. The culprit here should be brought to justice, and the victims should be given justice. Because if not, others would really be emboldened to take similar steps.)

Senate President Vicente Sotto III

We should all condemn those responsible for bombing the cathedral in Jolo. Targeting the innocent and the helpless is the highest form of cowardice.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

That’s really very tragic, so I’m also anxious to go back to Manila now so we can find out if there’s anything that Congress should do from our end…. [To the people of Jolo], please do not lose heart. I’m sure that the government will do everything to make things right.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara

I am deeply concerned and saddened by the twin explosions that rocked the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu this morning. But most of all, I am outraged that the bombings had reportedly killed 5 innocent individuals. This senseless act of violence must be condemned at the very least. 

I call on our police authorities conduct a thorough investigation, go after the perpetrators and hold them accountable for this cowardly act. The innocent victims deserve justice.

Senator Francis Pangilinan

We condole with the loved ones of those killed and wounded. We condemn the bomb attacks at a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Sulu that killed at least 19 persons and wounded dozens.

We trust that proper attention is being given to the victims and that the authorities are now on the hunt for the perpetrators of this dastardly act. 

The attack comes at the heels of a successful plebiscite that affirmed the Moro people’s desire to have a new Bangsamoro region that they will govern. 

Let us not be distracted and defeated by warmongers and violent elements in our midst. An immediate arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators will give justice to the victims and send a strong message that this government will not allow the rule of violence to triumph.

This incident is also a challenge for the government to show what martial law in Mindanao can do to address these attacks. 

We have come such a long way in our quest to realize the peace we have long desired for Muslim Mindanao. Let’s not allow it to be derailed this time.

Senator Richard Gordon

The bombing of the Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu resulting in 27 dead and 73 wounded so far, is a distardly act that must make us acutely aware of the need to be more inclusive, humane, and just – at all times.

We pray and commiserate with our soldiers, fellow citizens and their families who have suffered from this bombing. We are acting at the Red Cross now. All chapters are on full alert. We have two staff members who are injured. Stay safe and let us all do our duty.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV

Mariin nating kinokondena ang nangyaring mga pambobomba sa Mount Carmel Cathedral sa Jolo, Sulu. (We strongly condemn the twin explosions at Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.)

Taus-puso rin tayong nakikiramay sa mga nawalan ng mahal sa buhay at sa mga nasugatan sa pagsabog. (We extend our heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones and to those who were wounded in the bombing.)

Nananawagan tayo sa mga awtoridad na tugisin ang mga nasa likod ng pambobomba at papanagutin sa kanilang ginawa upang mabigyan ng katarungan ang mga biktima. (We appeal to the authorities to hunt down those behind the bombing and hold them accountable for their actions to give justice for the victims.)

Manatili rin sanang mahinahon at mapagbantay ang lahat sa harap ng tangkang ito na idiskaril ang kapayapaan sa Mindanao. (I also hope everyone will stay calm and vigilant in the face of this attempt to derail the peace process in Mindanao.)

Senator Joel Villanueva

The bombing of Jolo Cathedral on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning is a despicable act that seeks to terrorize residents of the city. This crime against the people of Jolo must not go unpunished. We hope our law enforcement units and military personnel bring justice to those who perished in this senseless act against our people.

Lubos po akong nakikiramay sa mga naulilang pamilya ng mga biktima (I extend my condolences to the families left behind by the victims). May the good Lord extend his saving grace to the innocent ones who were only saying prayers at the time of the attack. 

We laud the gallantry of the first responders who answered to the call of duty in rushing towards the incident area. Their response prevented more civilians from becoming victims, but it entailed sacrificing their own. We commiserate with the families of the fallen soldiers whose bravery will never be forgotten. 

Nawa’y matigil na po ang ganitong klaseng pag-atake sa mga sagradong pook tulad ng mga simbahan (May this kind of attack on sacred places such as churches stop). Places of worship should be spared from senseless violence.

Senator Risa Hontiveros

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the bombing incidents in Jolo, Sulu, that left more than 20 of our fellow Filipinos dead and many more wounded. My heart goes out to the families of those who suddenly lost their loved ones in this appalling event.

Nothing can justify this merciless, barbaric, and diabolical attack on people who were peacefully attending mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

I urge the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to do everything to bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice, and to make sure that no similar threats will again endanger the safety of our people, not only in Mindanao, but in the whole country as well.

It is also my hope that this incident will not derail or thwart our latest successes in paving the way towards lasting, genuine, and just peace in Mindanao, especially the recent successful ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). We must not let any act of violence stop us from working as one nation for the cause of peace and progress for all.

Senator Cynthia Villar

This bombing which targeted innocent people as they celebrate the Sunday Mass is clearly an act of terrorism. This should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. No time should be wasted in hunting down those who are responsible for this senseless act.

I fully support our government as they vow to crush those responsible for the attack. I am also praying for the safety of military personnel as they go after the perpetrators.

Senator Leila de Lima

The bombing of a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, that wasted at least 20 innocent lives is appalling as it is extremely atrocious. I extend my deepest sympathies to the families who have lost their loved ones to this unfortunate incident.

This senseless attack calls for serious government attention and action to ensure that the perpetrators behind the bombing are put to justice and the victims will not be simply relegated as collateral damage of the persisting acts of terrorism in the area.

The timing of the bombing is really questionable that is why it poses a big challenge for the authorities to find out, through a thorough investigation, the real reason and mastermind behind the Jolo bombings.

We should not allow any faceless cowards with selfish interests to threaten the safety and security of innocent people, especially not now that the government tries to convince us that the continuing implementation of martial law in Mindanao can help ensure the safety of the people.

PBA Representative Jericho Nograles

We condemn in strongest possible terms the bombing of Jolo Cathedral killing civilian and military personnel. I call upon the military and police to bring the perpetrators to justice as soon as possible.

Our nation is trying to bring peace in Mindanao. Today’s cowardly act will only strengthen government’s resolve to rid Sulu of terrorists.

We offer our condolences to the families of the victims. We pray for your loss and grieve with you.

I trust President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his administration will do the best they can for Sulu and the Philippines. 

No to terror. Yes to peace.

Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano

I strongly condemn the bombing at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu this morning which killed and injured civilians and soldiers. My condolences and prayers go to the families of the victims. 

Happening a few days after the plebiscite for the Bangsamoro Organic Law, it suggests that the bombing is meant to upset the peace efforts in the Mindanano region. This dastardly act committed in a public place before a religious gathering is clearly an effort to sow fear and terror.

I call on all relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the incident and swiftly identify and apprehend the perpetrators. I also enjoin the cooperation of the public for the safety of each and everyone.   

It is unfortunate that in spite of the martial law in whole of Mindanao, such terrorist acts continue to happen. I hope that intelligence gathering will be intensified and focused military operations be conducted when needed.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate

We strongly condemn the Sunday morning twin bombings of the Mt Carmel Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu that senselessly claimed the lives of many and wounded several other churchgoers.

We commiserate with the families of the victims and we join their call for justice and for the perpetrators to be made accountable for these clear acts of terrorism. 

While the pursuit for justice must be made in earnest, the people, particularly in Mindanao, must be on guard against undemocratic forces that may use this wicked act to fuel further conflicts and militarization in Mindanao. We call on the people to be even more vigilant and frustrate moves aimed at using this dastardly incident to create unfounded prejudice among the residents.

Gabriela Women’s Party

Gabriela deeply condoles with the people of Sulu following the deaths of at least 20 individuals in bombing incidents today in a Jolo cathedral.  

We join calls for an impartial investigation with hopes that justice may be attained so that our aspirations for peace may be realized.

We are reminded today not just of the depths and complicity of the conflict that beleaguer the Bangsamoro and Mindanaoans but also that of the need to address the roots of conflict in Mindanao – which a prolonged martial law will never solve.

Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) Representative Sherwin Tugna

Today is a dark day as we witness another attempt at disrupting peace in the country. I pray with the families of those who perished from the Sulu bombings earlier today. May they find peace at this difficult time.

Terrorism has no place in our society. I ask the state to exhaust all means to run after the perpetrators of these senseless acts of violence. They should not stop until the people behind these bombings are apprehended and put behind bars.

I call on the entire country to be vigilant. We should be on the lookout for anyone who intends to derail efforts in institutionalizing peace in Mindanao.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr

We condemn in the strongest possible terms the recent IED attack at the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu that claimed the lives of soldiers and innocent civilians as we express our deepest condolences to the victims of this detestable act.

We have come a long way in our journey to achieve enduring peace in Mindanao. Now is not the time to cower and be intimidated by such a selfish and cowardly deed. Instead, let us show that we can work together and push through with our collective aspiration for a peaceful, united, and progressive Mindanao.

We also call on the public to stay calm and refrain from aggravating the situation by issuing speculations, particularly on social media. Let us wait for the proper authorities to complete the investigation.

As the authorities conduct their investigation, we urge everyone to be vigilant and united in seeking justice for the victims. Let’s trust that the perpetrators will immediately be brought to justice and face the full consequences of their actions.

Commission on Human Rights

The Commission on Human on Rights strongly condemns the ruthless bombing at a Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, that left at least 20 dead and 80 others injured.

Our countrymen and -women have long yearned for peace in Mindanao. Such violence has no place in the country, especially that concerned areas are in the midst of forging durable peace through the Bangsamoro Organic Law plebiscite.

We extend our sympathies to the families and friends of the victims, as we urge everyone to stand firm on working for lasting peace and refuse fear to take root.

At the same time, we call on the government to ensure that the perpetrators of this barbaric act are made accountable for this crime in defense of the rights and dignity of all. A joint team from CHR Central Office, through its Investigation Office, and CHR-Region IX shall investigate the incident. 


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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.