ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/25 October)– Alumni of Mindanao State University-Marawi City are demanding justice for a philosophy professor and his student assistant who were robbed before they were shot to death and burned by four unidentified men at around 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Killed were Professor Othello Cobal and Erwin Escabo Diaz. They were reportedly robbed inside the Mindnolia Internet Café owned by Cobal, and then shot dead and burned.
An unidentified female who was at the cafe owned by Cobal when the incident happened sustained severe skin burns, and was brought to the university infirmary, said Jose Cantallopez, also a philosophy professor at MSU-Marawi.
Cantallopez told MindaNews that authorities from the National Bureau of Investigation investigated the crime scene. The remains of the victims were brought to St. Peter Chapel in Sta. Filomena in neighboring Iligan City.
Michael Juson, a colleague of Cobal at MSU College of law, quoted some witnesses as having said the perpetrators mauled Diaz and shot Cobal in the head before tying him down to a chair and burned him with gasoline.
Alumni, professors and students of MSU-Marawi expressed shock and anger over the incident.
Cobal, in his mid-40s, was among the professors who pioneered the establishment of internet cafes inside the campus. His internet café is located besides the Land Bank of the Philippines branch.
Diaz, 19, worked as an assistant at Mindnolia to support his studies and his three sisters.
Diaz had just arrived from his on the job training in Singapore as a hotel and restaurant management student. He stayed a bit longer in Singapore after his training to earn money for his younger siblings but his employer advised him to graduate first and promised him employment upon graduation, Gemma Makalingan, a law professor, said.
“Cobal was a philosophy professor who helped many scholars finish college, who helped introduce debating and speaking to students all over Mindanao, who was visionary enough to have put up the first internet cafe on campus, who mentored many lives, was robbed, killed, strapped in a chair and burned together with his internet shop. We cry justice for Othello Cobal!” lawyer Marc Castrodes, PTV5 news anchorman and an alumnus of the MSU’s college of social sciences.
“Cobal was a philosophy professor who helped many scholars finish college, who helped introduce debating and speaking to students all over Mindanao, who was visionary enough to have put up the first internet cafe on campus, who mentored many lives, was robbed, killed, strapped in a chair and burned together with his internet shop. We cry justice for Othello Cobal!” lawyer Marc Castrodes, PTV5 news anchorman and an alumnus of the MSU’s college of social sciences, said in a letter addressed to President Benigno Aquino III and posted on Facebook for all MSUans to sign.
“His death is just one of a series of incidents in MSU. Many of them unreported. Many victims and their families opting to just keep quiet thinking that nothing can be done and nothing will change. The leadership seems helpless Mr. President. And the general feeling is the leadership does not care,” Castrodes added.
“Our memory of MSU in Marawi is one of a foggy landscape, serene, beautiful, quiet, punctuated only with laughter, cloudy but lit by friendship and dreams, rural but intellectually stimulating; an exclusive place for those who pass the tough entrance exams and the even tougher academic standards. MSU to them was almost like heaven here on earth. But that MSU is no more, Mr. President,” he lamented.
“MSU today is no longer exclusive. Squatters have built mansions inside the campus. Many of them owned by mayors and leaders of the various municipalities of Lanao. They stake lands, build their fortresses, tag along their armed guards with impunity. MSU is no longer serene and beautiful. It is dirty, noisy, unkempt, and stinky. MSU is no longer safe.” he said.
“Why do we still care, Sir, when we have all left MSU? Because so long as MinSuPala (Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan) is poor, we know the bright students of the region who come from the poorest families will continue to flock to MSU every year, despite the risks, because they do not have a choice. MSU to this day remains the only university in the country that offers the cheapest fees, cheapest cost of living, with nationally competitive academic standards,” Castrodes explained.
Ferdinand Nakila, former professor of humanities at MSU-Marawi, lamented: “Othello was a good person, a good friend, a good brother. He was selfless. I’m so sad and angry at his death.”
“My heart is bleeding and I cry not because I lost a friend but I cry more for my beloved alma mater,” said Juson.
“It’s totally an outrage for me to hear the unexpected death of Cobal because he was a true Christian and mentor. He helped me build the University of Ambassadors Resource Center for Human Development now Jesus University of Development Education Ambassadors as channel of parliamentary debating in Butuan and Caraga Region. I pray that the full force of the law find the culprits and put them behind bars,” said Dominador Datahan Magarin, an alumnus.
Adelyn Alvarado, an alumnus of MSU-Philosophy department said: “He does not deserve to go this way, no one deserves to die the way he did. It’s so sad, so senseless, so tragic. We mourn the loss of one of the brightest minds in the philosophy department.” (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)