By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan and Anna Leah Gonzales

SENSELESS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said the government will bring the perpetrators of the Marawi, Lanao del Sur bombing to justice. He assured that the government is helping the victims of the terrorist attack that occured during a Catholic Mass at the gymnasium of the Mindanao State University main campus on Sunday morning (Dec. 3, 2023). (Photo courtesy of Lanao Sur PPO)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Sunday denounced the bombing at the Mindanao State University (MSU) and Marawi communities in Lanao del Sur and assured that the government is on top of the situation. 

“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the senseless and most heinous acts perpetrated by foreign terrorists upon the Mindanao State University and Marawi communities early this Sunday morning,” Marcos said in a statement. 

“Extremists who wield violence against the innocent will always be regarded as enemies to our society. I extend my most heartfelt condolences to the victims, their loved ones, and the communities that have been the target of this latest assault on peace,” he said. 

The President said they are closely coordinating with the regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the concerned local government units. 

“I thank them for their swift and immediate response to the incident and for their ready support to the victims,” he said. 

Marcos said he instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to ensure the protection and safety of civilians and the security of affected and vulnerable communities. 

He said additional security personnel are also being deployed. 

“As reports come in throughout the day, I enjoin all of us to remain calm, circumspect, and conscientious in our collective efforts to ensure that the horrific events of this morning are not further compounded by inaccurate, unvetted, and unofficial information,” President Marcos said. 

“Rest assured we will bring the perpetrators of this ruthless act to justice. Let us all keep the victims, their families, and our communities in our prayers,” he added. 

Foreign governments condemn bombing 

In separate statements, the Embassy of France to the Philippines and European Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron offered condolences to the victims. 

“We have learned that an act of terrorism has struck the University of Mindanao, resulting in the death of several people and the injury of others,” the Embassy of France to the Philippines said. 

“We offer our condolences to the families of the victims and assure the authorities and the Filipino people of our solidarity in the face of this despicable terrorist attack,” it added. 

Veron said violence should have no place in schools. 

“It’s deeply disheartening to learn of today’s explosion at Mindanao State University in Marawi. In this difficult time, my thoughts are filled with concern for those students who have suffered injuries, and my sympathy extends to the families who have lost their loved ones,” Veron said.

Denounce, renounce

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is saddened over the bombing, lamenting that it even happened on the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical season.

“Surely, the killers who precipitated such a horrendous act of violence have their loved ones too. What would it take to get them to see in the families of their victims their own families?” Caloocan Bishop and CBCP president Pablo Virgilio David said in a statement.

“Such violence should not only be denounced; it should also be renounced as a way of seeking redress by every peace-loving Filipino.”

David said the victims’ loved ones can “take comfort in the thought that they have participated in the passion of Christ.”

“They professed their faith at that last Mass that they attended, especially in the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting,” David said.

PNP elevates security level

Meanwhile, the PNP is already on full alert status in Mindanao.

“The safety and well-being of the community is our top priority. In response to the incident, we have elevated the security level of our Police Regional Offices (PROs) in Mindanao to full alert status. This decision is part of our strategy to enhance readiness and response capabilities to address any potential threats or untoward incidents,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said.

She said the PNP deployed augmentation teams consisting of Special Action Force units, Explosive Ordinance Disposal teams, and K9 units to Marawi City.

She said these teams are actively conducting paneling activities in areas of convergence to strengthen security measures and detect potential threats.

NCRPO, too

At the same time, Fajardo said the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) is on heightened alert as it reinforces its vigilance and immediate response capabilities.

She added that the police leadership ordered the deployment of patrols and the putting up of checkpoints in strategic locations.

“To reassure the public and deter criminal elements, the NCRPO is on heightened alert with increased police visibility across the region. This measure aims to instill confidence and demonstrate our commitment to maintaining peace and order,” she added. (PNA)