COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Police have linked a member of one of the biggest groups of suspected narcopoliticians in Mindanao to the ambush that wounded Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. and killed four of his security aides in the province on Friday, February 17.
Lanao del Sur police spokesperson Major Alvison Mustapha identified two primary suspects but asked Rappler to withhold their names for police reasons on Wednesday, February 22.
At a news conference in Cagayan de Oro on February 18, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimo said at least 10 suspects were identified to be responsible for the ambush of the 57-year-old Adiong and his aides, mostly non-commissioned police officers and one Army soldier.
One of the primary suspects identified by the police had previously been charged with multiple murder and double frustrated murder in connection with the killing of five narcotics agents and wounding of two other members of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Kapai town, Lanao del Sur, five years ago.
Mustapha said a third suspect, who was killed during pursuit operations launched by the police and military in Maguing town hours after the ambush of Adiong’s group, was identified as a man Friday of the two primary suspects.
The fresh information came after the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the Bangsamoro region created the Special Investigation Task Group Adiong to focus on identifying suspects and determining the motive for the attempt on the life of the governor.
In 2018, police pressed charges against eight suspects in the ambush of PDEA members who were on their way to Marawi City from a drug symposium in Tagoloan II town in Lanao del Sur on October 5 that same year.
One of the primary suspects in the February 17 ambush of Adiong’s group is a nephew of a former Lanao del Sur town mayor, and the two were among the eight men linked by the police to the killing of PDEA agents in 2018.
His other uncle was killed in a shootout during an anti-drug operation in Marawi City in August 2018, just two months before the Kapai town ambush.
The 2018 ambush also came weeks after the PDEA pulled off what it called the biggest catch of alleged Lanao del Sur-based narcopoliticians in 2018 during a raid in Tubod, Iligan City on September 19 that year.
Arrested during the 2018 Iligan raid were a provincial board member of Lanao del Sur and his wife and son-in-law, a Marawi City councilor, and a former barangay chairman of Maguing, the same town where Adiong and his group were ambushed five years later.
Investigators noted that the ambush of Adiong’s seven-vehicle convoy came on the same day that police and PDEA agents discovered a marijuana plantation in Maguing town and destroyed an estimated P5 million in marijuana plants in the hinterland village of Bato-bato.
Law enforcers uprooted approximately 25,000 fully grown marijuana plants in the outlying village that same day, according to Brigadier General John Guyguyon, the Bangsamoro police director. No arrests were made. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow, and Herbie Gomez is Rappler’s Mindanao bureau regional coordinator.
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