GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/4 April) — Police authorities have tagged a provincial board member of Sarangani Province and three other persons who were arrested in a series of firearms raids in Maitum town on Wednesday morning as behind the February 28 ambush that led to the fatal cardiac arrest of Maitum Mayor George McPherson Perrett.
Chief Supt. Lester Camba, Region 12 police director, said Friday Sarangani board member Bryan Alexander Reganit, Barangay Kiayap chair Ismael Dimaudtang, Kiayap councilor Edgar Improgo and businessman Andrew Thomas Strong were positively identified by several witnesses as the alleged “planners” of the attack on the late Maitum mayor.
“Sila nagplano. They, as a group, alam nila yung pag-ambush kay late Mayor Perrett (They planned it. They, as a group, knew about the ambush on late Mayor Perrett,” Camba told reporters.
The four suspects were arrested in separate raids launched by joint police units in Barangays Kiayap, Upo and Malalag in Maitum town on Wednesday morning.
The operation was based on eight search warrants issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 25 Judge Renato Tampac for violation of Republic Act (RA) 10591 or the Comprehensive Firearms Law.
During the raids, which were spearheaded by the Police Regional Office 12’s regional special investigation and detection team (RSIDT), operatives recovered and seized various types of firearms, ammunition, explosives, illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
RSIDT officials filed charges on Thursday afternoon for violation of RA 10591 against Reganit, Dimaudtang and Improgo at the Sarangani provincial prosecutor’s office.
They filed separate charges against Strong for violation of RA 10591, RA 9156 the Law on Explosives and sections 6, 11, and 12 of RA 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act for “maintaining a drug den, possession of illegal drugs and paraphernalia.”
Camba said the witnesses noted that various firearms were used in the attack, prompting them to apply for the search warrants.
“We have so far verified that, with the recovery of quite a number of firearms and even explosives during the raids,” he said.
The official said the Special Investigation Task Group Perrett is currently conducting a deeper investigation to validate and verify the testimonies given by the witnesses and the evidences that it has so far gathered.
Strong, whose son Genaro is a councilor of Maitum, immediately denied any hand in the ambush of Perrett saying the latter was his uncle or a brother of his mother.
“That accusation is absurd since we have blood relations,” he said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.
Strong admitted that he had previous conflicts with the late Mayor but cited that they were just simple “family misunderstandings.”
“We’re families so killing each other is not possible or even an option,” he said.
Reganit, who was released from police custody late Thursday after posting a P200,000 bail bond, denied any involvement in the ambush on Perrett.
“I have no idea why my name came up as a suspect in this case,” he said.
Reganit said he is supporting the swift resolution of the Perrett case but not at the expense of innocent people.
He urged police authorities to also give proper attention to the other unsolved murders of other previous mayors of Maitum town, including that of his father former acting mayor Felix Reganit, who was gunned down in 2007 in Tondo, Manila.
Perrett, his wife Elsie and five aides were on their way home to Barangay Kalaneg in Maitum at around 10:30 p.m. on February 28 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 died of cardiac arrest due to severe loss of blood several hours after the attack while being treated at a private hospital here.
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 attackers at the town’s public market. He was replaced by his Vice Mayor Felix Reganit, who was shot dead a year later.
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. (MindaNews)