Murder suspect eludes arrest

The raid resulted in a shootout between the operatives and the group of Datulam Matabalao Kambang, who is also wanted for reportedly masterminding cattle rustling operations in Pikit and in nearby towns of North Cotabato.

This time, however, the gun battle did not spark any tension after the police made proper coordination with the Government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front Adhoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and the Joint Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities.

The police operation came on the same day government peacekeepers gave soldiers and policemen a lecture on the need of coordination to prevent any violation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

Insp. Elias Dandan, chief of Pikit police, claimed that Kambang could have been hit when they fired shots towards him during his escape.

Dandan and elements of the 7th Infantry Battalion were set to serve the warrant of arrest on Kambang for murder when the suspect and his group allegedly fired at them.

Nobody was reported killed or injured on either side during the brief

The operatives claimed to have recovered from Kambang’s safehouse one rocket-propelled grenande and one M-203 grenade launcher.

They also claimed to have recovered a set of uniform with "MILF markings" which they said proved that the suspect is an active member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Dandan further said that they saw drug paraphernalia in a cottage near Kambang’s safehouse.

MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu said the MILF also want to arrest Kambang for various crimes committed in Pikit.

“Kambang is not a member of the MILF. He is a notorious criminal wanted by us,” Kabalu said.

Last Friday, Brig. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, government AHJAG chief, told military and police officers to study the provisions of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF “to avoid jeopardizing the ongoing peace process.”

In the past, attempts by police to arrest criminals in areas claimed by the MILF to be their territories often resulted in firefights because of lack of coordination.