NBI forensic team now in Jolo to probe bombings

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2020 10:19 PM

MANILA -- A forensic team from the National Bureau of Investigation is now in Jolo, Sulu, to investigate the twin bombings that rocked the island on Monday, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

"(Monday) afternoon, immediately after the explosions, I gave instructions to the NBI to secure the blast area and preserve any and all evidence. A forensic team should be there by now," he told reporters Tuesday. 

The explosions, believed to have been set off by suicide bombers, killed at least 15 people including 8 soldiers, 6 civilians, 1 policeman and the suicide bomber, and wounded 5 others.

The Philippine Army alleged that 2 female bombers carried out the attacks, with one of them likely the Indonesian wife of the reportedly first Filipino suicide bomber who blew himself up in Indanan town, Sulu in 2019.

"The NBI can identify the nationality of the alleged suicide bombers and their co-conspirators after a thorough investigation," Guevarra said.

Both the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army have recommended re-imposing martial law at least in Sulu, as a result of the blasts.

But Guevarra said he would rather the Philippine government wait for the result of the investigation before taking any action.

"It all depends on the nature of the incident after due investigation. If it's a terrorist act, the government will enforce the anti-terrorism law to the extent that it can be implemented without the IRR, which is still being prepared," he said. 

"If it's an act of lawless violence, the President may use his calling-out power to suppress further violence under section 18, Art VII of the Constitution. If it's an act of rebellion, and public safety requires it, the President may declare martial law in that part of Mindanao." 

Under the section Guevarra cited, the President may, without declaring martial law, call out the armed forces to help suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion, without any reporting requirement to Congress.

But in cases of invasion or rebellion and when public safety requires it, the President is given the additional options of either suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus (used to question illegal arrest and detention) or declaring martial law, for a period of up to 60 days. 

For either option, he is required to report to Congress in person or in writing. Congress may, by a majority vote, revoke, suspend or extend the effectivity period. 

The entire island of Mindanao was placed under martial law, extended three times until the end of 2019, following the Marawi siege in 2017.