MANILA -- Malacañang on Sunday said the government will pursue and "crush" all the "godless criminals" behind the deadly bombings in the southern town of Jolo, Sulu.
At least 20 people, including civilians and soldiers, were killed in the twin explosions at a Roman Catholic church, while some 81 more people were injured, the police said.
In a statement, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo called the incident an "act of terrorism" that "boldly challenged" the capability of the government to secure that part of the region.
"The Armed Forces of the Philippines will rise to the challenge and crush these godless criminals. We will pursue to the ends of the Earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars," he said.
Malacañang said authorities have yet to identify the people behind the twin blast at the Mt. Carmel Cathedral, but it assured that an investigation is already ongoing. The Palace also condoled with and vowed support for the families of the victims.
The explosions in the Sulu town happened less than a week after majority of Muslim Mindanao approved the creation of a new region that will grant wider autonomy for Bangsamoros—a local word that refers to Filipino Muslims in the restive south.
However, the military said it was still too early to connect the blasts to the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which is part of the peace deal between the government country's largest Moro rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Sulu, which is a part of the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is a known bastion of the Abu Sayyaf, a group of bandits linked to the Al-Qaeda network. The province voted against the creation of the new Bangsamoro region.
"We have yet to establish if the 2 explosion are related to the all - important BOL. The BOL ends the secessionist narrative. The BOL signifies the end of war for secession. It stands for peace in Mindanao," said National Security Adviser Jun Esperon.
"We will mot allow them to spoil the preference of the people for peace. Security forces have tightened up the systems to secure Sulu and the rest of BARMM. Peace must prevail over war." Esperon added.