GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 March) – The Police Regional Office 12 has created a special task force to lead the investigation into the ambush on Friday night that led to the fatal cardiac arrest of the mayor of Maitum town in Sarangani province.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Monday the task force was tasked to look deeper into the circumstances of the attack on the late Maitum Mayor George McPerson Perrett, determine its motive and identify those involved, especially their possible masterminds.
“This is to ensure proper focus and speed up the resolution of the case,” the official told reporters.
Dubbed Task Group Perrett, Camba said the task force is mainly composed of investigators from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 12 and other regional police units.
He said the unit commanders and heads of offices of the regional police office were also given special assignments under the task group.
Perrett, his wife Elsie and five aides were on their way home around 10:30 p.m. last Friday when they were ambushed by unidentified gunmen at a portion of the highway in Sitio Buto, Barangay Malalag in Maitum.
Recovered from the crime scene were 13 empty shells from an M16 rifle, two from a caliber .45 handgun, and another from a 12-gauge shotgun.
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, was hit on the leg but still managed to drive to a nearby detachment of the regional police’s public safety battalion.
Another aide was slightly wounded but Elsie, who is a former three-term mayor of Maitum, and their four other companions were unharmed.
Perrett was immediately rushed to the St. Elizabeth Hospital for treatment but died of cardiac arrest due to severe loss of blood around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The late mayor, who is a close ally of Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel Pacquiao, is the youngest son of Walter K. Perrett, an American banker who was among the first group of Thomasites that were sent to the Philippines after the Filipino-American war.
The elder Perrett arrived in Maitum in 1918 after a brief stay in Ilocos. He was executed by the Japanese occupational forces in Kiamba during the war.
Sr. Insp. Arnold Montesa, Maitum police chief, earlier said they were investigating several angles, including politics, as possible motive of the attack.
Maitum, a coastal town bordering Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat provinces, has a history of political killings.
In 1986, Exuperio Gabucayan, a former Philippine Army captain who was appointed officer-in-charge of Maitum, was killed by assassins.
In November 2006, then Mayor George Yabes was gunned down by unidentified suspects at the town’s public market. He was replaced by his Vice Mayor Felix Reganit, who was shot dead a year later in Tondo, Manila.
In 2010, unidentified gunmen killed municipal councilor Edwin Ramos, who was then rumored to be considering running for mayor, just outside his residence.
Last year, Barangay Kalaong chair Alan Perrett Palileo, a nephew of the late mayor, was killed on the third attempt on his life.
Meantime, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Sarangani immediately installed Vice Mayor Pepito Catimbang as mayor of Maitum last Saturday afternoon.
The town’s top councilor, Jeanne Ablog, was also sworn in as vice mayor, said DILG provincial director Flor Limpin.
Limpin said the move was aimed to avoid vacuum in the local government’s leadership and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of its services.
“We deemed it proper to immediately act on the matter in response to the attack, which is a peace and order concern,” he added.