People’s Park in Davao. The city was known as one of the Philippines’ safest. Source: Flickr
At least 14 people have been killed and many more hurt in an apparent bomb explosion at a night market in Davao in the southern Philippines.
Chief Superintendent Manuel Gaerlan asked the public to be vigilant and said President Rodrigo Duterte, who was Davao mayor for decades before taking the presidency in June, was on his way to the site.
Guerlan said a ring of checkpoints had been placed around Davao’s exits.
The explosion took place outside the Marco Polo hotel, which was visited many times by Duterte, who was in Davao at the time and unaffected.
Broken glass and plastic chairs scattered the scene as police bomb experts and investigators studied the site.
Paolo Duterte, Davao’s vice-mayor and the president’s son, said that alcohol had been banned and residents were being asked to return to their homes.
Presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said that the extremist Abu Sayyaf group or drug lords were among the suspects.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer’s “kill list” estimates that 832 drug dealers have been killed by the police and vigilantes since Duterte came to power on June 30.
Police say at least 239 drug suspects were killed in the first three weeks of Duterte’s administration.
Davao is part of the southern island of Mindanao, where Islamists have conducted a decades-long insurgency that has left more than 120,000 dead.
Communist rebels, who have been fighting Manila since 1968, also maintain a presence in Davao’s rural hinterland.
Troops have launched major attacks on Abu Sayyaf meaning the region has been under heightened security.
On Monday at least 12 Philippine troops were killed during heavy fighting with militants, in what was the deadliest day for the nation’s army since Duterte won the election in May.
Leonor Rala, 19, a medical technology student at San Pedro College, said: “I am really scared to go out. The roads are closed and nobody’s allowed to go out of the city. There are bomb threats everywhere and some of my schoolmates are victims of the explosion and now dead.
“We’re very terrified because Davao City was known to be the safest city in the Philippines and a situation like this is very rare.”
Witness Jboy Gonzales told CNN Philippines that he saw more than 30 people taken away in ambulances. “[A] lot of people are wounded, shocked, traumatised,” the priest said.