ILIGAN, Philippines – Authorities have created a special task force to conduct a thorough investigation into the February 17 ambush of Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. and his aides in Maguing, Lanao del Sur.
The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Adiong was ordered to build a strong case against the suspects, and file a complaint against them before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Lanao del Sur.
The group includes members of the Philippine National Police, Army, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Lanao del Sur, and is led by Colonel James Gulmatico, deputy director of the Bangsamoro police.
The MILF was earlier ordered by its leader, Bangsamoro interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim, to help investigators in identifying and catching those behind the ambush that wounded Adiong and killed people in his seven-vehicle convoy while they were en route to Wao town in Lanao del Sur.
Bangsamoro police director Brigadier General John Guyguyon said the fatalities were all police officers with ranks ranging from corporal to staff sergeant.
Aside from Adiong and his office aide Ali Macapadao Tabao, police said an Army soldier, Private 1st class Gilbert Mananguite, was also wounded. All the wounded, including Adiong, are recuperating now.
Guyguyon said Mananguite had gone missing right after the ambush but responding soldiers from the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade found him slightly hurt and brought him to a military headquarters in Marawi City.
Colonel Billy dela Rosa, the deputy commander of the Army’s 103rd Brigade, said Managuite was wounded as he escaped from the ambush site, and provided investigators with useful information.
Authorities also revealed that a suspect was killed by responding troops after he drew a caliber .45 pistol to fight back.
The dead suspect remained unidentified and no one has claimed the body as of posting time.
Bangsamoro Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo on Saturday said at least 10 suspects were already identified.
Police Director General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. has imposed gun restrictions in Lanao del Sur a day after the Friday ambush.
Azurin said the gun ban also applies to the two Maguindanao provinces in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as well as in Cotabato province in the Soccsksargen region due to reports of escalating violence in these areas.
Despite the recent events, the gun ban has been criticized by former Maguindanao provincial board member Jojo Limbona, who said it would put the lives of law-abiding citizens with guns as protection at risk.
Authorities have taken measures to combat the escalating violence, including stepping up joint operations to monitor the movements of the terrorist group Dawlah Islamiyah-ISIS, remnants of the Maute Group that was responsible for the 2017 Marawi Siege.
The police have also intensified checkpoint security and launched a campaign against loose firearms in the provinces.
In Maguindanao, security sectors remained on high alert due to the presence of another ISIS-linked local terror group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Military operations were ongoing against this group on the borders of Pikit, Cotabato, and the Liguasan Marsh in the Maguindanao area.
Recently, a top commander of BIFF was gunned down in a joint-security operation in Tacurong City. Abdulkarem Lumbatan Hasim had been wanted by authorities and was involved in attacks against police and military personnel.
Hasim’s aide, Makmud Lumbatan of a BIFF faction, was also killed in the operation.
Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Bernardino said Hasim was responsible for the ambush and killing of police Lieutenant Reynaldo Samson in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on August 29, 2022.
He said Hasim was also the suspect in the killing of a corporal in Barangay Sambulawan, Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, in October 2022.
The Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) strongly condemned the attempt on Adiong’s life and expressed its deep concern and outrage over the attack on the official and his aides.
In a statement on Sunday, February 19, ULAP said the use of violence and intimidation against public officials goes against the principles of democracy, rule of law, and basic human decency.
ULAP called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice through all legal means available even as it emphasized that such a heinous act of violence must not be tolerated and that all citizens must stand together to condemn such acts and support efforts to ensure the safety of public officials and the people they serve. – Rappler.com
Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.
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