COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) gunned down a member of the police’s elite Special Action Force (SAF) as three explosions rocked North Cotabato and Maguindanao Friday night.
Director Manuel Barcena, chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Southwestern Mindanao, identified the victim as PO1 Randy Dumaguing, a member of the SAF battalion deployed along the Cotabato-General Santos Highway.
“The unit was deployed there for law enforcement activities after our counterparts in the Army drove the bandits away,” Barcena said.
The explosions occurred along a national highway in North Cotabato’s adjoining Mlang and Kabacan towns and Datu Odin Sinsuat, not far from the Army’s Camp Siongco beside the Cotabato City Airport.
Lt. Col. Prudencio Asto, spokesman for the 6th Infantry Division, said the bombs were made of 81mm mortars, similar to the type planted by the terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in various parts of southern Philippines and Central Mindanao region in previous years.
“All the bombs have similar composition and mobile phone-triggered,” Asto said in a radio interview.
Saudi-trained Ameril Umbra Kato leads the breakaway BIFM.
In a joint statement signed by government peace panel chairman Marvic Leonen and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chairman Mohagheer Iqbal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the negotiating panels condemned Kato’s attacks as “aggressions or dirty spoiling by groups who would do everything to derail the peace process.”
“The parties condemn the senseless attacks, as well as the violent acts of lawless elements in several areas in Mindanao,” the government and MILF panels said.
The two panels also vowed to work together to ensure that Kato’s group would not succeed in derailing the peace process.
‘Persecution of 5 mayors’
Meanwhile, political leaders in Mindanao yesterday criticized Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s directive to five Maguindanao mayors to explain for allegedly abandoning their post when members of the BIFM threatened to attack their respective towns.
The five local executives are Zandra Sinsuat Ampatuan of Saydona; Reshal Santiago Ampatuan of Datu Unsay; Johayra Midtimbang Ampatuan of Datu Hoffer; Datu Saudi Sheam Ampatuan of Saudi Ampatuan; and Kanor Ampatuan, acting mayor of Salibo.
“The families of these five mayors have construed the act of Secretary Robredo as persecution,” a municipal official in first district of Maguindanao said.
Lawyer Anwar Malang, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao executive secretary, said the five mayors could prove that not a single town hall had been taken over by the bandits.
A legal adviser of one of the mayors said the BIFM launched their attacks midnight Sunday, at a time when the town halls of the affected municipalities were closed.
Robredo gave the mayors five days to explain why they should not be charged for abandonment of their post. – John Unson, Ramil Bajo, Jose Rodel Clapano