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Philippine cardinal, govt slam grenade attack on chapel

Residents in Cotabato city and across Mindanao region were asked to remain vigilant following the violent act
Police officers investigate the site of an explosion outside a shopping mall in Cotabato City on the southern island of Mindanao on Dec. 31, 2018. A grenade attack on a village chapel in Cotabato left two persons injured on May 19.

Police officers investigate the site of an explosion outside a shopping mall in Cotabato City on the southern island of Mindanao on Dec. 31, 2018. A grenade attack on a village chapel in Cotabato left two persons injured on May 19. (AFP)

Published: May 21, 2024 09:05 AM GMT
Updated: May 21, 2024 09:18 AM GMT

A top Catholic leader and a government official strongly condemned a grenade attack on a village chapel during a Bible service that left two wounded in Cotabato in the southern Philippines.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the retired archbishop of Cotabato, denounced the grenade attack at the Sto. Niño Chapel on Pentecost Sunday, May 19, reported the official news site of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Philippines (CBCB).

The injured were rushed to a hospital for treatment.

Quevedo said the “dastardly bombing” was a “horrendous sacrilegious act that cries out to heaven,” the report said.

“The crime is doubly condemnable when committed against neighbors gathered to worship God in a sacred place,” he said.

Quevedo called on authorities to ensure justice for the victims of the attack.

“I call upon our security, military, and investigative forces to ferret out the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” he added.

The cardinal is a member of the Council of Leaders representing the Christian Settler Communities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in the Muslim-majority Mindanao region that has endured a Muslim insurgency for decades.

No group claimed responsibility for the grenade attack. However, media reported that two unknown, motorcycle-riding men hurled the grenade at the chapel and sped away.

Police reportedly identified a suspect but did not reveal his name or if he was associated with any extremist outfit.

The Philippine government also condemned the attack and called it a “direct attack on the Filipino people’s commitment to religious freedom and peaceful co-existence and blatant disregard for human life”.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., said the attack would not deter the government’s pursuit of lasting peace in the region.

“Let us all work together to prevent such tragedies from happening again, and to help foster a more peaceful, inclusive and harmonious environment that respects the diverse faiths within our communities,” Galvez said in a statement on May 21.

He urged the residents of the region to remain vigilant following the attack.

"We urge everyone in Cotabato City and across the region to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activities to the proper authorities," Galvez added. 

Cotabato City is the largest predominantly Muslim city in the Philippines with a population of 325,079 as of 2020.

A part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, Cotabato is the main commercial center in Mindanao.

Thousands were killed in a deadly conflict between Islamic militants and the military for decades in Mindanao.

In 2018, the main insurgent group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which fought for great autonomy for the region laid down arms after the national government passed Bangsamoro Organic Law, also known as Bangsamoro Basic Law, to establish an autonomous region in Mindanao.

Thousands of MILF fighters have reportedly disarmed since then. However, the media reported that many of its fighters later joined other extremist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf, which pledges allegiance to the global terror outfit, Islamic State.

Widespread poverty and lack of development in the region are blamed for breeding extremism despite Mindanao being known for its promising agriculture sector and natural resources.

In 2021, more than 26 percent of Mindanao’s estimated 24 million people were in poverty, the highest in the country, according to the state-run Philippine Information Agency.

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