Major Randolph Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the military would "observe the primacy of the peace process and will not make the alleged involvement of the MILF affect it.” He said the incident should be investigated first.
Lt. General Rodolfo Obaniana, EastMinCom commander, told reporters in a text message today that around 50 unidentified armed men "suspected to be members of the MILF extricated three suspected bombers" and 40 other inmates at the North Cotabato provincial jail before dawn Friday.
The MILF has denied the allegation and insisted they do not engage in raiding jails to free inmates. (see related story).
Among those who escaped were bomb suspects and believed to be members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) namely, Kair Mundos, Dati Ali Sultan, and Tukan Guindo. The three were identified as high-profile bombing suspects.
Cabangbang said they have already alerted security units in "bomb-prone" cities like General Santos, Cotabato, and Davao saying the escapees were capable of creating, planting and exploding improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The attackers reportedly engaged the jail guards in a 20-minute firefight, blew up a portion of the wall at the back, destroyed the padlocks of at least six prison cells, and allowed inmates to go free.
Obaniana said the group fled to the villages of Patadon and Malinan in M’lang town following a police and military pursuit.
Cabangbang said they are giving the MILF the "benefit of the doubt.”
"Our stand is we want the peace process to progress," he said.
"We have to make sure first through the police investigation if they are really involved," he said.
Cabangbang said they will elevate the matter to the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) of the government and MILF.
Davao City Police Director Senior Superintendent Jaime Morente asked for copies of the photos of suspects so they could alert checkpoints to Davao City.
Cabangbang, however, said the suspects would likely stay low-key and not launch high profile operations "since the suspects were already identified". He said they might instead opt to train others create IEDs. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)