GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 4 March) – The Police Regional Office (PRO) 12 has relieved the chief of police of the coastal municipality of Maitum in Sarangani Province in the wake of the ambush late Friday night that led to the fatal cardiac arrest of the town’s mayor.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Tuesday he ordered the relief of Sr. Insp. Arnold Montesa as Maitum police chief for failing to properly secure the late Mayor George McPherson Perrett.
Although noting that Perrett had refused to be detailed with a police security escort since he assumed as mayor in July last year, he said Montesa should have initiated other ways to secure the official.
For instance, Camba said Montesa should have coordinated the proper clearing of the ambush site in Sitio Bugo of Barangay Malalag before the mayor’s vehicle passed by the area on Friday night.
“He could have called up the attention of the 3rd Maneuver Company to secure that area being part of the mayor’s route,” he said.
The 3rd Maneuver Company of PRO-12’s Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) has a detachment near the site of the ambush.
Perrett, his wife Elsie and five aides were on their way home to Barangay Kalaong in Maitum around 10:30 p.m. last Friday when they were ambushed by unidentified gunmen.
The mayor and his companions attended an arts and culture event in the town proper of Maitum and were on their way home when the incident happened.
The mayor, who was then driving their Toyota Fortuner sports utility vehicle, and another aide were hit on the leg but Elsie, who is a former three-term mayor of Maitum, and their four other companions were unharmed.
Perrett was rushed to the St. Elizabeth Hospital here for treatment but died of cardiac arrest due to severe loss of blood around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Camba, who has formed the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) Perrett to hasten the ongoing probe of the incident, said the circumstances of the ambush showed that the mayor was the main target of the attack.
He said most of the shots that were fired during the ambush were directed at the driver’s side of the vehicle where Perrett was situated.
Police recovered from the crime scene 13 empty shells from an M16 rifle, two from a .45-caliber pistol, and another from a 12-gauge shotgun.
Camba refused to speculate on the motive of the attack and the identity of the suspects as well as possible masterminds pending the ongoing investigation.
But he said the SITG Perrett is currently verifying some potential leads that could eventually help resolve the case.
“Our investigators are now tracking down the possible witnesses of the incident,” Camba said.
Meantime, Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian-Solon and lone district Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao condemned the ambush on the late Mayor Perrett and urged authorities “to get into the bottom” of the incident the soonest possible time.
The late mayor is a close ally and party mate of Gov. Solon and Rep. Pacquiao in the People’s Champ Movement.
“It’s very painful to lose an ally like Mayor Perrett,” Pacquiao said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
Pacquiao, who is presently on break from his work at the House of Representatives due to his ongoing training for the April 12 rematch in Las Vegas, Nevada against American brawler Timothy Bradley, said he has asked Sarangani police director Sr. Supt. Edwin Minion to come up with a lead regarding the attack “within one week.”
For his part, Solon assured that the provincial government will support all efforts in connection with the investigation of the case and the operations against the suspects and its possible masterminds.
“We will pursue all those (involved in this attack),” he said.
As directed by Gov. Solon, all flags within the province’s seven municipalities are currently flown at half-mast to mourn the passing of Mayor Perrett.