Updated 12:05 PM PHT Sun, December 25, 2016
(CNN Philippines) — Sixteen people were hurt after an explosion near the Sto. Niño Church in North Cotabato last night.
The explosion happened around 9:30 p.m. while churchgoers were receiving Holy Communion.
Col. Bernand Tayong, Midsayap Police Chief said that the explosion was triggered by a grenade lobbed by still unidentified suspects under a police patrol car parked in front of the church.
Members of the explosive and ordnance division (EOD) of the Philippine Army immediately responded and conducted a post-blast investigation.
Tayong identified the victims as:
- Leah Butan
- Regor Pedrosa
- Ronaldo Celes
- Chesser Rosete
- Jofer Asis Tamayo
- Arnel Silvano
- Jenelyn Silvano
- SPO4 JohNny Caballero
- Ejimar Loquiz
- Princess Capunday
- Jessa Mae Banlawi
- Little Joy Singco
- Jonel Orquiza
- Kent Steven Pacquio
- Arissen Bagot
- Ronald Duga
According to Tayong, Caballero was the team leader of the police team that secured the area.
He added, prior to the incident, they received reports that drug syndicates affected by the anti-illegal drugs campaign would retaliate against the police.
The local government of Midsayap released a statement on the incident. In full, the statement reads:
"It is sad to note that things like these cause harm and distress to the peaceful people of Midsayap especially as we celebrate this time of joy and giving.
"The Local Government Unit of Midsayap condemns these acts of cowardice and senseless deeds of sowing fear and terror in the hearts and minds of our constituents. We ask the people of Midsayap to collectively fight these forms of violence with prayers and acts of love and trust to one another. We believe that good shall always and will always triumph over evil.
"As we look deeper into the details of this incident, we will make sure that those behind this will face the full of force law. Our authorities are now in full coordination to attend to the wounded and those who need help.
"We encourage vigilance and caution to everyone. Violence and terror do not deserve a place in our peaceful community.
Provincial Acting Governor Sherlyn Macasarte and Midsayap Mayor Romeo Arana condemed the incident and ordered the Philippine National Police to bring the suspects to justice.
An investigation into the blast is ongoing.
Cotabato City-based journalist Erwin Cabilbigan and Kidapawan City-based journalist Abner Francisco contributed to this report.