COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Local officials and a crowd gathered at the Cotabato City Plaza for a Christmas lighting event on Tuesday night, December 6, when gunshots were heard, sending people scampering for safety.
The mysterious gunshots were fired past 6 pm, apparently several meters from where Cotabato Mayor Bruce Matabalao lit up the plaza at Tantawan Park along SK Pendatun Avenue in Barangay Poblacion 5.
Matabalao was about to talk to reporters at the event when the gunshots sent everyone, including journalists, running for cover.
Police said no one was hurt.
Police and other security groups quickly sealed off the city plaza, securing the mayor and other officials.
There were many children and elderly people in the crowd.
“We are all calling on every Cotabateño to pray for safety, and peaceful holidays for everyone,” said Matabalao.
The mayor also said in a statement posted on the city’s Facebook page: “We commit our police force to thoroughly and swiftly investigate this incident…. We will not let fear and criminality take over the noblest of seasons and festivities.”
The police gave no clear explanation for the gunfire but said that a security guard might have been responsible for the pandemonium.
Major John Vincent Bravo, chief of the Cotabato City police’s Station No. 1, said a bystander told investigators that he saw a security guard chasing a shoplifter from a drugstore, and then two shots were fired. The account has yet to be validated.
Cotabato police chief Colonel Querubin Manalang Jr., for his part, theorized that what was heard were warning shots.
“Still, it wouldn’t be right for a civilian to fire his gun, especially at that time. We are finding out who did that,” Manalang said.
Police requested establishments near the plaza to give them access to their CCTV recordings so they would know what really happened and who fired the shots. – Rappler.com