Duterte inspects Jolo Cathedral, visits wake of blast victims

Pia Ranada
President Rodrigo Duterte, accompanied by security officials, also interacts with soldiers, cops, and civilians injured by the Jolo explosions

ON SITE. President Rodrigo Duterte, his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio, and top security officials inspect the Jolo Cathedral a day after the deadly bombing. Malacañang photo

MANILA, Philippines – Accompanied by the country’s top security officials, President Rodrigo Duterte paid a visit to Jolo, Sulu, still reeling from twin explosions that killed 23 people and injured over a hundred. The death toll rose on February 4.

Arriving a little past 2 pm on Monday, January 28, the day after the bombing, Duterte entered ground zero of the explosion – the Jolo Cathedral or Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. (READ: What we know so far: Jolo Cathedral bombing)

In his inspection of the cathedral, Duterte was accompanied by his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, and Philippine National Police chief Oscar Albayalde. Also present was his former aide Bong Go, who is running for senator in the 2019 elections.

Duterte also paid his respects to victims of the explosions. Photos from Malacañang show him  standing beside the coffins of Filipino soldiers as he spoke with the military’s Western Mindanao Command chief Arnel dela Vega.

CONDOLENCES. President Rodrigo Duterte speaks with AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Arnel dela Vega while standing beside the remains of a Jolo blast victim. Malacañang photo

Malacañang photo

The President also visited some of the civilians, soldiers, and cops who were injured by the blasts.

Soldiers and cops who had rushed to respond to victims of the first bomb had been hurt when a second bomb exploded by the cathedral’s gate.

Out of the 23 who died, 6 were soldiers. Out of the 109 injured, 17 were soldiers and two were cops.

Duterte flew out of Jolo at around 5:30 pm on Monday, according to Malacañang staff.

The deadly bombing, and the first to take place inside the cathedral itself, occurred while the entire Mindanao is under martial law.

Malacañang, on Monday morning, insisted martial law has been effective in addressing the southern region’s security woes.

Malacañang photo

Malacañang photo

Aside from imposing martial law in the island, the Duterte administration has deployed an entirely new infantry division in Sulu to hunt down Abu Sayyaf and other terror groups there.

Duterte himself attended the activation of the 11th Infantry Division last December 2018. The division was estimated to consist of 4,500 soldiers. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.