COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/07 October) – Two of the three persons presented Friday in a press conference in Quezon City as the perpetrators of the September 2 bombing in Davao City were reported to have been abducted at gunpoint here on Tuesday.
Presented in a press conference at the Department of National Defense were suspects TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendell Apostol Facturan, and Musalli Mustapha. They were allegedly nabbed in a checkpoint on October 4 in Cotabato City.
Macabalang and Facturan were reported abducted here Tuesday.
In Davao City, Mayor Sara Duterte said the arrest of the suspects behind the blast htat left 15 persons dead and 69 others injured is a “welcome development” but added it must lead to the dismantling of terror groups.
Defense Secretary Lorenzana said the suspects had “direct participation in the September 2 Davao night market bombing.”
TJ Macabalang, the alleged triggerman allegedly made the phone call that detonated the improvised explosive device, Facturan, alleged bomb courier, sat on the massage chair, put the backpack containing the IED while Mustapha allegedly took a phone video of the bombing.
Lorenzana said recovered from the suspects were bomb-making materials, a machine gun, caliber .45 pistol, motorcycle, cellular phones, and a video recording of the actual bombing at around 9:50 p.m. on September 2.
The video footage, aired by national TV networks, opens with a view, although from a distance, of the massage area of the night market, followed by an explosion and in the dark, voices of people shouting “tabang, tabang” (help, help). It ends with a phone ringing and the person who took the video replying to the caller, “paalis na kami” (we’re about to leave).
Lorenzana said the bombing was meant to divert attention from military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and to avenge heavy casualties of the Maute group in Butig, Lanao del Sur and the capture of eight of its members in the province on August 22.
Heavily-armed members of the Maute group stormed the Lanao del Sur provincial jail in Marawi City five days later and freed all eight of their companions while several other prisoners escaped.
In Cotabato City also on Friday, police raided the house of Macabalang’s father, at dawn and seized materials for the assembly of two high-powered explosives, several firearms and ammunition.
Chief Inspector Allan Uy, spokesperson of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said they found rounds of 81mm mortar and rocket-propelled grenade, a detonating cord, hand held radio, improvised switch circuit, cellphone, blasting cap, and a plastic ice cream container in the house of businessman Teng Macabalang along Rosary Heights.
The elder Macabalang said he “cannot control” his son anymore. “He is no longer listening to my advice. I’ve heard he met and joined this group called ISIS not too long ago,” he said. The Maute Group reportedly has links with the ISIS. (See related story)
His son, TJ, in his 30s, is engaged in sticker and tarpaulin printing and buy-and-sell of vehicles, and his worker, Facturan, were abducted at gunpoint along Governor Gutierrez Avenue, in front of Landbank last Tuesday afternoon, while meeting a client for a motorcycle deal.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer report on October 5 quoted the father as saying his son was to meet a prospective buyer of a motorcycle around 3 p.m. when they were forced into a Toyota Innova.
The PDI said the police learned about the abduction at around 6 p.m. when the father reported the incident to Police Station 2.
According to Philippine Star on October 5, witnesses reported seeing TJ and Facturan herded into a “parked van without license plates, which sped away towards an interior area nearby.”
“Three of their abductors also hurriedly left using a Toyota Innova parked few meters away from the scene,” the report said.
The next time the two were seen were in Friday’s press conference in Camp Aguinaldo, along with Mustapha.
In September last year, TJ’s worker named Micky Imam Glang, 27, was abducted by armed men and was found dead 20 days later.
In Davao City, Mayor Duterte commended law enforcers for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators.
“It is, however, important for us to remember that the arrest must ultimately lead us to the dismantling of terror groups in our midst or result in the failure of more senseless acts of violence and extremism,” the mayor said.
She also emphasized that the arrest “does not end our desire to give justice to the victims and those whose lives were forever changed by that horrendous act of terrorism on the night of September 2 in our beloved city.”
“Let us continue to be vigilant and show the world that we do not surrender to fear nor do we allow terrorism to cripple our humanity and undermine our values,” the mayor said.
Last month, the city government offered a P3-million reward for the information that may lead to the arrest of the suspects. Nine suspects were charged with multiple murders and frustrated multiple murder in connection with the bombing. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews; with reports)