MANILA -- Security forces were on full alert in Basilan province on Sunday after twin explosions struck a church in neighboring Jolo, Sulu, leaving dozens dead and injured.
Policemen and soldiers strapped with firearms kept watch over Basilan's churches, government offices and other public places.
Check points were also put up in Isabela, the former provincial capital, "so that we can calm or make the people feel that we are securing all of them," said Vice Mayor Cherry Akbar.
"I am asking all my constituents to be calm but of course vigilant and alert. Kung mayroon po silang nakikitang kaduda-duda o kahina-hinalang mga tao sa paligid natin (if they see any suspicious person), please don't hesitate to report to the authority," she said.
The local government has not received any terror threat, she told ANC.
The bombings in Jolo have claimed at least 20 lives and left 81 injured as of this posting, according to the police.
The first blast occurred inside the Jolo Cathedral as Mass was being celebrated, and was followed by a second explosion in the parking lot as troops responded, said regional military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Gerry Besana.
The explosions came a week after majority of voters approved a new Bangsamoro region in the south, which is hoped will bring peace and development after decades of fighting that killed thousands and mired the area in poverty.
Sulu province -- which includes Jolo -- voted against the creation of the new region, with its governor questioning the law establishing the area before the Supreme Court.
Despite Sulu's vote, legislation provides that the province will still be included in the new political entity as voters from across the current autonomous region voted in favor of it on the whole.
The military will "crush" the "godless criminals" behind Sunday's attack, said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
-- With a report from Agence France-Presse