MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte canceled his first foreign trip and declared a “state of lawless violence” in the Philippines, following an explosion in his home city late Friday that killed at least 14 and wounded dozens.
Duterte was scheduled to leave for Brunei on Sunday to meet Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and greet the Filipino community there. It was to be the first leg of a week-long tour of Southeast Asia, Duterte’s first overseas trip since coming to power on June 30.
The explosion in Davao, on the southern island of Mindanao, came hours after Duterte christened a new port terminal there. It was around 10 p.m. when the bomb exploded at a popular night market.
Duterte had served as Davao’s mayor for 22 years before becoming president.
Philippine media has reported that the terror group Abu Sayyaf on Saturday claimed responsibility for the explosion, the deadliest attack in the city since 2003, when twin bombings struck the Davao International Airport, killing 22, and the Sasa Wharf, where 17 perished.
That coordinated attack was undertaken by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, a separate group of Muslim insurgents. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo responded much like Duterte did today, by declaring a state of lawless violence, though limited to Davao.
The Abu Sayyaf Group was founded in 1990 and has gained notoriety for beheading hostages if ransom demands are not met. In 2004, the terrorist organization firebombed a ferry in Manila Bay — still the Philippines’ deadliest terror attack. More than a hundred died.
The 480-strong terror group is concentrated on Mindanao, an impoverished but resource-rich region that remains underdeveloped due to conflict and violence between the government and extremist groups.
Davao has been left largely unscathed by the violence due to tight border patrols and strict law enforcement under Duterte’s watch.