President Rodrigo Duterte is looking at the involvement of suicide bombers—a couple, he said—in the twin bombings at the Jolo cathedral on Sunday afternoon.
Duterte made the remarks citing information from the military even after the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in its official pronouncements, denied the suicide bombing angle.
He said the woman brought the bomb inside the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral while the man stayed at the church's entrance where another explosion took place.
Asked if the attack involved suicide bombers, Duterte said, "Yes, blowing them up."
"Lalake yung isa. Mag-asawa," Duterte told reporters in Malabon City.
Duterte dismissed claims that there was a lapse in security at the cathedral, which has been receiving threats since last year.
"The other bomber was outside. There was no reason for him to be frisked. Either he was just passing by before blowing himself up," Duterte said.
"Ang problema kasi ang babae was wearing a cross pa, malaking cross sa dibdib niya so who would ever think," he added.
"It is not a norm in this country magkapkap ka ng babae," Duterte said.
The President said they have received "conflicting" information about the nationalities of the alleged suicide bombers. He added Indonesia had warned the Philippine government of a possible attack in Sulu.
"We were already warned, not only by Indonesia, by the rest of the...kaya may umiikot na military doon eh," he said.
AFP public affairs chief Noel Detoyato earlier said that at least two survivors recalled seeing a woman leave a bag on one of the pews just before the first explosion went off.
He said the investigation also found that the improvised explosive device (IED) that went off inside the cathedral was "remotely" detonated, and that this would already dispel reports of a suicide bombing.
Authorities had looked into the possibility that a suicide bomber had set off at least one of the explosions, as human body parts and blood were found in the cathedral near the front.
"Kung hindi suicide bomber ano?" Duterte said.
AFP public affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato said at least two people who were injured in the incident recalled seeing a woman leave a bag on one of the pews just before the first explosion went off.
He said the investigation also found that the IED that went off inside the cathedral was "remotely" detonated, and that this would already dispel reports of a suicide bombing.
"Parang on the fifth pew iniwan yung bag umalis 'yung babae then a few seconds after may sumabog so yun ang method of deployment so hindi siya suicide bombing," Detoyato said.
"So ang method of deployment ng IED iniwan 'yung bag and then ...remotely, it was remotely detonated so that would dispel the reports na may suicide bombing," he added.
On the second explosion, Detoyato said it was possible that the IED that went off outside the Church as the people were trying to leave the premises was not mounted on a motorcycle.
He also confirmed that the bombs used in both blasts were of the same chemical components that could be sourced locally.
"It's an ammonium nitrate which is locally available, all components locally available and ang locals kayang-kayang gumawa nu'n," said Detoyato.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana seemed to back the President's statements.
"There are two bombs that exploded one after the other within 1.5 minutes. The first bomb that exploded inside the church was apparently left behind by a certain woman. This is according to hazy recollection a survivor sitting four pews behind the explosion," Lorenzana said.
"The second bomb that exploded at the entrance about a minute and a half after may have been a suicide bomber as indicated by body parts strewn all over including half a face and neck and two feet. The identity of this person is still a mystery and is under investigation by the PNP SOCO."
Duterte also lashed out at the Abu Sayyaf group which he said should be destroyed following the church attack that killed 21 people and injured some 100 others.
"We are sure of that. Walang iba [Abu Sayyaf]. Nobody but nobody can perpetuate that kind of terrorism. I have no doubt that is what the military told me and that is what the police relayed to me and I am guided by what the government workers would tell me," he said. —NB/ LDF, GMA News