Duterte visits wounded in the Hilongos bombing; two teenage victims get brand new phones
HILONGOS, Leyte-Fifteen-year-old John Reyneill Lamo was lying on his hospital bed on Friday morning when an unexpected visitor arrived: President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Grade 6 pupil broke into a smile especially after the President handed him his mobile phone.
President Duterte arrived in Hilongos at 10:29 a.m. to visit the victims of the twin bombings at the plaza named after the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, on Tuesday night.
He immediately went to the Hilongos District Hospital where six blast victims were still confined. Twenty others, who had been discharged on Thursday, were asked to go back to the hospital in time for the President’s visit. But only Lamo and Mary Grace Odia, 12, were each given an android phone by the President.
“Gamitin mo ito (Use this),” the boy quoted the President as saying when he handed the brand new phone to him.
All 26 victims were, however, given financial assistance of P10,000 each as well as an assurance that those responsible for the blast would be brought to justice.
President Duterte also met with police officials in Eastern Visayas led by Chief Supt. Elmer Beltejar, the police regional director, and Hilongos Mayor Albert Villahermosa who briefed him on what happened.
The mayor said the President instructed the police officials to solve the bombing as soon as possible. He also assured Villahermosa that the law enforcers were doing everything they could to ensure peace in his town following the blast.
“Don’t lose hope because the security forces of the government are doing their job. Trust our police and the military. They are doing their work. They will protect you,” he said.
Villahermosa said they now felt secure and at ease with the assurance of the President. “While we are in the moment of grieving because on what happened to us here, (his visit) it add boosts to the people, “he said.
At least 1,000 people were at the 300-square-meter town plaza to watch a local boxing bout as part of the festivities to celebrate the municipality’s annual fiesta when an improvised explosive device (IED) planted near the water tank exploded at 9 p.m. A minute later, another IED planted near the stage where the boxing was taking place went off. Fortunately, its blasting cap did not detonate so created less damage than the first blast.
The police were looking into the possible involvement of either a drug syndicate or a fake money ring in the bombings, adding that these crime groups might have wanted to retaliate after they arrested a drug queen in October and busted a money counterfeiting group, both in October.
Lamo was standing near the water tank when the first bomb exploded. He ran toward the stage but a second bomb also exploded there a minute later. But he was stil able to get back to his house in the village in Atabay, more than three kilometers away from the town center.
“He still managed to return home and told me that he was hit by a bomb with blood running down (in his body.) Then, he fainted; I immediately brought him to the hospital,” said his father, Ruel, 34.
A day after, he received a belated Christmas gift from no less than the President. “I was excited to have a new phone and this is actually my first cellphone. But at the same time, I was also happy to see our President personally; I only see him on television,” the teenager told the Inquirer after the President’s visit.
During the interview, Lamo was tinkering his new phone while his father watched grinning.
Ruel said the President assured him that the police would get those responsible for the bombing.
Mr. Duterte left the hospital around 11:45 a.m. But while inside his vehicle, he was given a microphone and addressed to the crowd waiting for him outside the hospital.
He said that he was about to return to Davao City but decided to visit Hilongos after he learned of the incident that rocked the town of more than 86,000 people.
Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, who was among those who welcomed the President, assured the people of the province that the bombing in Hilongos was an isolated case. But he urged the security officials as well as the mayors and barangay officials to be vigilant “especially when we are in a crowded place.”
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