GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Shops closed and streets in the town center of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao were deserted on Saturday morning, October 1, a day after the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) political party and the suspected gunman were killed, and two others were wounded in separate gun attacks in the municipality.
Police said defeated mayoral candidate Jamael Sinsuat was shot as he emerged from a mosque around noontime after the Friday prayers on September 30.
His companion, identified only as Alas, was wounded in the shooting carried out by a lone gunman.
Police said the suspected gunman was also shot dead and found near the crime scene.
Sinsuat died on the way to the hospital, said Maguindanao police spokesperson Major Reggie Albellera.
Later that afternoon, a still unidentified group shot and wounded Sinsuat’s nephew Darius while he was in a car.
The Sinsuats belong to one of the few ruling political clans in Maguindanao.
Fearing reprisals and getting caught in crossfires, several residents of the town fled their homes as early as Friday.
Datu Odin Sinsuat will become part of the 12-town territory of the new Maguindanao del Norte province, created along with Maguindanao del Sur by a 2021 law that was ratified via a plebiscite in September.
Jamael was a former barangay chairman of Datu Odin Sinsuat’s Poblacion Dalican, who ran for mayor but lost to his nephew, Mayor Lester Sinsuat.
Lester condemned what he called the “brutal killing of my uncle.”
He called for a no-nonsense investigation to make the perpetrators answerable.
“Such a cruel and cowardly act should hold no place in our society and community,” Lester said.
Former Maguindanao provincial board member Bimbo Sinsuat called on the police to identify and bring to justice those behind the attacks.
Abellera said investigators have yet to identify the suspected gunman who was shot and found dead near the spot where Jamael and his companion were attacked.
Colonel Roel Sermese, Maguindanao police director, said no one has so far claimed the remains of the suspected gunman, and he had nothing that could lead to his identification.
Sermese said investigators were also looking into the attempt on the life of Jamael’s nephew, who was shot at around 5 pm on Friday.
He said the two gun attacks could be related.
More policemen and soldiers were deployed to the town to avert a feared escalation of hostilities, Sermese said.
Meanwhile, Bimbo criticized the town police for their alleged slow response.
He alleged that the authorities did not respond immediately when his brother was attacked near the town’s police station.
The MILF’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) also strongly condemned the killing of its chairman in Datu Odin Sinsuat town and asked authorities to make sure those behind it are identified, arrested, and tried in court.
UBJP deputy secretary-general Naguib Sinarimbo said their party “notes with concern the continuing harassment and attack against its officials and party leaders since the elections and immediately thereafter.”
Sinarimbo is also the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s minister of the interior and local governments.
“We call on law enforcement agencies to conduct a swift and thorough investigation and immediately bring the perpetrators and everyone behind this to the bar of justice,” he said. – Rappler.com