At least 12 people were reported dead with dozens injured when an explosion hit a night market at around 10:20 p.m. on Davao City's Roxas Street Friday night.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, who described the blast as an "unspecified explosion," initially said that at least 10 people were confirmed dead and estimated at least 60 hurt. Five men and five women were killed on the spot, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte said.
Two more people died after being rushed to the hospital. RGMA Davao's Ruth Paolo Dumandan, citing a report by Southern Philippines Medical Center chief Leopoldo Vega, said that two of the wounded died at the SPMC.
"We were having a meeting and we heard a very huge explosion. The first thing we thought was 'it's a bomb'," said John Rhyl Sialmo III, 20, a student at the nearby Ateneo de Davao University.
"The area where there was the explosion was a massage parlor. So we saw these men and women from that place in their uniform, they went to the school lobby to seek help. They were soaked in blood."
Abella said there was "no cause for alarm but it is wise to be cautious."
"While no one has yet claimed responsibility, it is best that the populace refrain from reckless speculation and avoid crowded places," said Abella.
President Rodrigo Duterte, the former mayor of the city, has typically spent his weekends in Davao, so his presence there on a Friday was not unusual and he had given a televised news conference earlier in the day.
His son Paolo Duterte, who is vice mayor of the city, said that his father was nowhere near the scene of the blast, and afterwards was safe at a police station.
The explosion was outside a hotel that Duterte visits frequently. Duterte had earlier on Friday shrugged off rumors of a plot to assassinate him, saying such threats were to be expected.
Cause of explosion
The younger Duterte said city officials had urged people to head home. He added that they did not yet have information about the cause of the explosion.
"Maybe tomorrow may answers na tayo from the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) and the bomb squad," he said.
Regional police chief Manuel Guerlan said a ring of checkpoints had been thrown around the city's exit points.
"A thorough investigation is being conducted to determine the cause of the explosion," he said. "We call on all the people to be vigilant at all times."
The military also yet to identify any suspects.
"None yet. The situation is still fluid. What we're getting are mere initial reports," said Major Ezra Balagtey, the spokesperson for the Eastern Mindanao Command.
Army investigators have recovered a suspected shrapnel at the blast site.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, however, indicated that it was premature to declare that an IED caused the explosion.
"No. You can say na mayroong initial report na galing sa isang mortar-based na IED," Andanar said in a radio interview.
Threats to Davao
The explosion occured nearly two months after Vice Mayor Duterte revealed that the city is under threat from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
Davao is located in Mindanao, a large southern island beset by decades of Muslim insurgency. The region is also home to Abu Sayyaf, a rebel group loosely linked to Islamic State and notorious for making tens of millions of dollars from kidnappings.
However, Davao itself is largely peaceful and Duterte has been credited with transforming it from a lawless town to a southern commercial hub for call centers and offshore business processing services.
Duterte had earlier on Friday shrugged off rumors of a plot to assassinate him, saying such threats were to be expected.
Asked on Thursday about the same rumor, Abella described Duterte as heroic and said: "He eats that for breakfast, it's not something new to him." — with Amita Legaspi and Trisha Macas/JST/NB, GMA News with Reuters and Agence France-Presse