Jolo Cathedral Twin Bombing Situational Report 01


As of January 27, 2019   |   6:00 PM Philippine Time


A. Incident Background

At 830 am, January 27, 2019, two IEDs exploded in the Cathedral of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu – one inside the church, while Sunday mass was going on, and as troops responded to the incident, the second one exploded in the parking lot outside, to where churchgoers ran after the first explosion.  Initial reports revealed that the IED was inside utility box of a motorcycle.

As of this time, no person or group claimed responsibility, and police investigation is still going on.


B. Casualties and Damages

1. The Philippine National Police reported 20 fatalities (a reduction from an earlier report of 27, where double entries were made and eventually corrected.) Of the 20, 15 were civilians, most of whom were church goers, and 5 were military personnel.

2.       A total of 81 people suffered injuries, 65 of whom were civilians, 14 soldiers, and 2 police personnel who were part of the first responders.

3.       Pictures show significant damages on the ceiling, floor, and furniture of the Cathedral, however, official damage assessment still needs to be done awaiting the arrival of the Administrator, Fr. Romeo Saniel, OMI, who attended the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Annual Plenary in Manila when the incident happened.


C.      Historical Background

1.      Today’s bombing is an addition to a series of attacks on the Cathedral or its vicinity. Since 2000, there had been at least ten attacks, many of these were allegedly perpetrated by the Abu Sayaf Group. Today’s attack however is the most fatal.

2.       Jolo is the capital of the island province of Sulu in Southern Philippines (see map). It has a current population of 125,000 people, 99% of whom are Muslims-Tausug. This province is the base of an armed extremist group called Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)  which has been responsible for several armed encounters, kidnappings, and the December 25, 2010 bombing of Sacred Heart Chapel in Jolo which injured 11 persons.

3.       The Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo covers the Catholic minorities in the entire province of Sulu and nearby province of Tawitawi. Its current Administrator of Rev. Fr. Romeo Saniel, OMI.

4.       Sulu is part of the recently ratified Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

5.       Days earlier, on January 24, 2019, a conflict erupted between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the remnants of the Maute-ISIS Group in Lanao del Sur.


D. Initial Government Response

1.       The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police immediately secured the incident area and provided medical emergency services, including air transfer of those who were badly injured.

2.       The Office of the President immediately released a statement condemning the attack and promising justice to the victims. This sentiment was echoed by many organizations like Red Cross and many Muslim leaders in the Region.

3.       President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman condemned the incident as an “act of terrorism and murder.”


E. Response of the Church

1.       Still suffering from shock, the parish priest Fr. Jefferson C. Nadua, OMI, called for prayers and begged off from giving further statements.

2.       Fr. Romeo also called for prayer and unity, and foregoes further assessment until his arrival in Jolo.

3.       The CBCP released a statement condemning the attack and calling for unity.


Bro. Reynaldo Barnido
Exec. Director of Duyog Marawi
ACN Volunteer Writer


*Photo Credit: Duyog Marawi

*With reports from AFP, PNP, CBCP, and Agence France Presse