They could have done it in another place and still inspire the same level of fear among the populace. However, those who exploded the bombs in Mt. Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu on January 27 knew the immense symbolism of that place of worship. And only those who know Jolo’s significance to Mindanao can piece together the shards of history that have created wounds as deep and painful as those that pierced the bodies of the victims of the blasts.
Maybe the ISIS did it, as the group claimed in its website. Or maybe it was the Abu Sayyaf, as the military speculated. If the guilty party is either of these groups, then the motive is clearly to scare away the Catholics from the island as part of their goal of pseudo-religious purification. For these so-called extremists, the church is an eyesore on Sulu’s landscape, the place being the cradle of Islam in the Philippines, although Christians and Muslims have peacefully coexisted there.
But official investigations must consider other angles and expand the realm of possibilities to pinpoint the culprits. It’s not enough for authorities to say that they would look into the “signature” of the attack, although it’s part of procedure.
For, other than creating terror or exacting revenge, the incident could be meant to blackmail government into again showering with attention the group espousing a lost cause. Perhaps it is afraid that with the ratification of the Bangsamoro Law despite the victory of the no vote in Sulu, its frozen world is approaching a meltdown. Perhaps it has realized that beneath the surface of the shared dream for Muslim self-rule, lines have been drawn.
Besides, the military and police must answer a basic question: How did the bombers manage to sneak past tight security?