MANILA - Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana urged the public on Wednesday to refrain from drawing hasty conclusions over a car explosion that killed 10 people in the restive south.
Tuesday's explosion occurred moments after soldiers and paramilitary troopers flagged down a vehicle allegedly loaded with improvised explosive devices at a security checkpoint in Lamitan, Basilan.
There are several theories about the incident, which "are just pure speculation at this time and are now the subject of an investigation," Lorenzana said in a statement.
"As such, I enjoin everyone not to jump to any conclusion and just allow our investigators to do their job," he added.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing attack, which it called "a martyrdom operation".
A soldier who witnessed the attack, meanwhile, told radio DZMM that the driver spoke in an unfamiliar language.
Military spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo has said security forces were investigating and there was no basis yet to conclude that the incident was a suicide bombing or had been carried out by a foreigner.
The government will use the full force of law against the perpetrators of the attack, said Lorenzana.
"I would like to say to those who are behind this cowardly and indiscriminate act of violence that justice will catch up with you and it will come in the form that you least expect and at a time that you will not predict," he said.
The bombing came days just after President Rodrigo Duterte approved a law to allow minority Muslims in the region to create a new autonomous area with its own political and economic powers.
The bombing was a sign extremists were bent on sabotaging a peace effort that had a chance of success, said security expert Rommel Banlaoi.
"These pro-Islamic State militants will pose a tremendous challenge for the implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law," he said, referring to the autonomy law.
Vehicle bombings are extremely rare in the Philippines, despite decades of separatist and Islamist violence that have destabilized the Mindanao region and lured foreign extremists. With a report from Reuters