The foreigner, listed on the warrant of arrest as “one John Doe who is a Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah member,” is among 31 persons facing charges of murder with multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder in connection with the November 22, 2007 bombing that killed a mall employee and injured eight others, among them a policewoman. .
The warrant for their arrest was issued on Dec 18, 2007 by Judge Rogelio Naresma of Regional Trial Court Branch 23.
Gantuangco said the foreigner is also facing charges of extortion and robbery, along with Nacir Abison, believed to be one of the leaders of the Al Khobar, an extortion group that received P100T from Mayor Gantuangco in November last year through a bank transfer.
The recipient was traced to a bank located in Ipil in Zamboanga Sibugay.
Authorities launched the manhunt after Judge Naresma issued two separate warrants for their arrest on January 23.
Also facing with several murder charges under Criminal Case no. 540-2007 are Alex Tatukan Sanduyugan and Muhalidin Sulaik Hassan, who were arrested for their participation in the KMCC Mall bombing last year.
Both Hassan and Sanduyugan are now locked in jail, while Abison still remains at large.
Abison was the main object of operations launched early December last year after authorities discovered that he owned the foreign remittance account where Gantuangco made two deposits — P50T each last November 26 and December 10.
Earlier, Supt. Marcelo Pintac of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in North Cotabato lauded Gantuangco for "standing" against the extortion group and for helping the authorities file the criminal complaints against the suspects.
Gantuangco executed an affidavit implicating Abison and several others in the KMCC Mall bombing, which resulted to the eventual issuance of the warrants of arrest.
Gantuangco has been criticized by some politicians for using government funds to pay the extortion money demanded by the Al-Khobar. One of those who considered his act as “despicable” is North Cotabato vice-governor Manny Pinol.
Gantuangco, however, was surprised when Pinol questioned his move.
Pinol, he said, knew of the deposits “right from the very start.”
“In fact, before I did it, I referred the matter to him. He also knew that the deposits were done to track down Abison and those involved in the series of bombings in the city,” Gantuangco explained.
At least four bombs exploded in Kidapawan City in 2007. The Al Khobar owned most of these bombings.
"The pay-off should not be treated as payment of protection money as some local politicians just wanted to impress. It was a part of a well-planned police operations duly coordinated with responsible agencies of the government", Gantuangco stressed. (MindaNews)