Philippine congressman hurt, two police dead in grenade attack

Debris is seen littered at the site of a grenade attack in La Paz, Abra province, in the Philippines on Jan 25, 2018. PHOTO: PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE VIA THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MANILA (AFP) - A Philippine congressman and ally of President Rodrigo Duterte was slightly wounded early Thursday (Jan 25) in a grenade attack that killed two police officers, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast that wounded Joseph Bernos, who sits in the House of Representatives for Abra, an impoverished northern province notorious for political violence.

Thirteen other people were wounded including Bernos' wife, the La Paz town Mayor Menchie Bernos, in the explosion that police said occurred as the couple watched a pre-dawn fireworks display in La Paz, 350km north of Manila.

Both the congressman and his wife were treated for minor injuries before being sent home, while two wounded police officers died in hospital, said regional police spokeswoman Carolina Lacuata.

The congressman's office in Manila told AFP it will issue a statement later Thursday, while declining to discuss the attack.

Bernos belongs to Duterte's ruling PDP-Laban party, the congressman's aides said.

The wounded included the La Paz police chief and one other police officer, Lacuata said in a statement.

She said police investigators found two hand grenade levers at the crime scene, though it was unclear if there was more than one explosion.

A study conducted by Manila-based Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism listed 31 Abra politicians murdered allegedly by gunmen hired by rival politicians in a six-year period between 2001-2006.

The most prominent of the victims was Congressman Luis Bersamin, whose House seat Bernos now holds.

Bernos' older brother, Ysrael Bernos, was also assassinated in 2006 while sitting as mayor of La Paz.

Congressman Bernos beat three rivals for the House seat in the 2016 elections.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.