ARMM Gov Hataman urges 'prudence, restraint' after Basilan blast

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman on Tuesday, July 31, called for “prudence and restraint” following the van explosion in Basilan that killed 10 people.

“We would like to appeal for prudence and restraint among the media and the public, as investigations are currently ongoing,” Hataman said in a statement.

“Let us stick to the facts and not forego our responsibility to the truth, especially when rumors and unfounded claims may lead to fearmongering and may further fuel instability at a time when we are working hard to win the peace and pursue justice,” the regional governor added.

Hataman made the call after it was initially reported that the incident in Barangay Colonia in Lamitan might have been a suicide bombing. Authorities later clarified that was not yet established.

Early Tuesday morning, soldiers were called to inspect a 10-seater van reported to be carrying an improvised explosive device (IED) parked near a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) detachment. The van exploded before soldiers could find and defuse the bomb, hurting 6 other soldiers and 3 militia men.

The Abu Sayyaf are suspected to be behind the attack.

Sitti Djalia Turabin Hataman, former executive director of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos and former AMIN representative, said the people of Basilan would not be cowed by the attack.

“When a few just blast the bridges we so painstakingly build...we dust off the rubble and proceed. If terror is their business, we're not buying it. we have lived too long in fear, it can no longer control us. We have become its master...and we calm it to our will,” said the former lawmaker,  the wife of the ARMM governor.

Vice President Leni Robredo, who condemned the attack and conveyed her condolences to the families of those killed in the blast, said the incident highlighted the importance of sustained peace in Mindanao.

"Ang malungkot na pangyayaring ito ay lalo dapat magpalakas ng ating determinasyon na makamit ang kapayapaan sa Mindanao at sa buong bansa. Ang isang lipunang may kapayapaang nakabatay sa katarungan ang pinakamatibay nating kasiguruhan laban sa ganitong uri ng karahasan," she said.

(This sad incident should bolster our determination to attain peace in Mindanao and the whole nation. A society with justice-based peace is the strongest assurance against such kind of violence.)

Senator Risa Hontiveros condemned the attack and expressed her sympathies to the families of the victims.

“I stand with the people of Mindanao at this critical time. I join them in condemning this kind of violent extremism,” Hontiveros said.

She said the government “must secure the peace in the region,” especially with the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL). 

Senator Panfilo Lacson said the incident “should prod the government to step up their intelligence and security capabilities to address this new deadly threat.”

“I would say, proactive offense prompted by good intelligence is still our best defense,” said Lacson, a former PNP chief.

Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, said that “the Filipino people must stand united to fight violence and collectively condemn this cowardly act.”

The  International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Wednesday, August 1, that the main purpose of international humanitarian law – which is supposed to protect civilians – is "to maintain some humanity in conflict."

"Civilians must never be targeted. They are not part of the fighting and are protected under international humanitarian law,” said Piotr Dregiel, head of the ICRC office in Zamboanga.

ICRC workers also visited Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City to offer its support for those who were wounded. –