Cotabato City

Armed groups cause panic in Cotabato City as polling precincts open

Rommel Rebollido

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Armed groups cause panic in Cotabato City as polling precincts open

Tension grips an area outside a school in Cotabato City on Monday, October 30, 2023.

Screengrab, Cotabato City Government livestream

The Council for Climate and Conflict Action Asia says voters forcibly entered the Cotabato Central Pilot School despite security forces trying to block them

KORONADAL, Philippines – Tension remained high in Barangay Rosary Heights 12 in Cotabato City as polling precincts opened, with armed groups linked to a candidate threatening voters in the queue, leaving them scared and tense, the Council for Climate and Conflict Action Asia (CCAA) said on Monday, October 30.

The group, which has been monitoring the situation in the Bangsamoro region, said residents posted across social media seeking immediate help and response.

CCAA is involved in conflict monitoring and provides data and analysis on conflicts, especially in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The group said voters also forcibly entered the gate of Cotabato Central Pilot School despite security forces attempting to block them. The school is a cluster precinct catering to different barangays.

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Rosary Heights 12 is a barangay in Cotabato City, the regional center of BARMM, where three people were killed, including two candidates, and at least two others were hospitalized following a shootout on October 23.

However, Cotabato Mayor Mohammad “Bruce” Matabalao, on Saturday, October 28, said a policeman was injured that night.

Matabalao asked, “There is a third person who was injured, a policeman. Where and who is this policeman?”

He said he had asked Cotabato City police chief Colonel Querubin Manalang to inform the BARMM’s police director about the matter to account for the “missing policeman.”

Matabalao said he was told by the city police chief that all police personnel in the city were accounted for, and no one is missing.

One of the 12 arrested persons in connection with the incident was a policeman – Master Sergeant Pauti Dianal Mamalapat, who is a member of the Maguindanao del Sur police.

Mamalapat remains in custody along with 11 others after formal charges were filed against them before the City Prosecutor’s Office.

Matabalao’s revelation came after relatives of those who were killed on October 23 rejected the negative results of the paraffin tests made on all 12 suspects.

“Bring out the actual results of the paraffin tests,” said Kalanganan Mother barangay chairman Bimbo Ayunan Pasawiran.

“How can that be when we were there and saw for ourselves how they were shooting at us?” he added.

Captain Remu Ramolete, chief of the Cotabato police Station 1, said the paraffin procedure on the suspects failed to detect gunpowder burns on any of them, but this is not conclusive. There are still other forensic tests that will be conducted.

Pasawiran said they suspected that the forensic test results were “manipulated” and that the suspects were receiving support from an influential person.

Pasawiran’s nephew, Alfarr Ayunan Pasawiran, was among the three killed on October 23. The two others were Nur Muktadin Butucan and Faizal Abas. Butucan and Pasawiran were candidates for barangay chief.

Three murder and two frustrated murder complaints were filed against the suspects last week.

Matabalao said the city government will give its full support to the call of Pasawiran for a no-nonsense and impartial investigation of the incident.

“With his stature, being a duly elected official, Chairman Pasawiran’s allegations must not be ignored and instead be given serious attention, even by the national leadership, the Congress. We will even call in the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the matter,” he said. –

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