Group wants relief of General sued by Tomawis; Tomawis knew the killers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 November) – A party-list group has called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the killing Sunday morning of Vice Mayor Alex Tomawis of Barira, Maguindanao in his residence in Davao City.

Akbayan-Mindanao also called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines leadership to relieve a newly-appointed general who was the subject of several complaints filed by Tomawis before the Office of the Ombdusman, Provincial Prosecutor and the Commission on Elections and urged the Commission on Appointments to defer confirmation of his promotion.

This, as reports indicate Tomawis knew the killers who managed to enter the gate, purportedly to have some documents signed.

According to police reports, Barira Vice Mayor Tomawis, 38, former three-term mayor (2001 to 2010), was gunned down in his residence here at around 10:45 a.m. by two young suspects who pretended to have some documents signed.

Sr. Supt. Rene Aspera, the city’s chief of police, said Sunday that Tomawis was “shot in the head with the use of handgun.”  Eight empty shells from a caliber 9 mm pistol were found at the crime scene at Hill Drive St., beside the Heritage Church in Kilometer 5, Buhangin.

Tomawis was rushed to the Davao Doctors Hospital in the downtown area but was pronounced dead on arrival.

In a statement, Tom Villarin, chair of the Mindanao Commission of the party-list group Akbayan, said he was with Tomawis in a coffeeshop a few hours before he was killed, and that Tomawis discussed the cases he filed against newly-appointed Brig. Gen. Ernesto Aradanas (PMA 1979), chief of the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade based in Barira.

Aradanas was among 21 newly-appointed generals inducted by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on November 22.

Villarin said that during the recent barangay elections, Tomawis and Aradanas “had a heated argument as the military was intervening in the local elections.”

He said Tomawis on November 5 filed cases of illegal detention and election offenses under the Omnibus Election Code against Aradanas  and that Tomawis was in Davao City “to file with the Ombudsman last November 26 cases of grave misconduct and grave abuse of authority”  against Aradanas, Major Mahainien Sangki, and 1st Lt. Manago Macalintangui, also of the 603rd IB.

The group also wants the three officials relieved “to de-escalate tensions between supporters of Vice-Mayor Tomawis and the AFP.”

Sad and Pathetic

Aradanas said the allegations were “baseless.”

“That’s sad (the killing) and pathetic (the baseless accusations),” Aradanas told MindaNews in a text message.

“The AFP is not into political or personal fight. The 603rd Brigade just tried to perform its mandate for free and credible election. The brigade has no fight with him, even when he considered its commander and staff as against him during the BSK election. He was not supposed to be part of that election in the first place, it was supposed to be a non-partisan process,”Aradanas said.

On October 24, on the eve of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, Tomawis was held under restricted custody by elements of the 603rd IB after allegedly commandeering election paraphernalia in favor of his and her wife’s town in Buldon, Maguindanao.

Before noon that day, Army troops from the brigade received complaint reports of alleged involvement of Tomawis in partisan politics and that this was confirmed later when his convoy, which joined the convoy of Police, Municipal Treasurer and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in delivering ballots for Barira and Buldon, was flagged down in a checkpoint in Parang,Maguindanao.

Aradanas noted that Tomawis did not properly coordinate with the election officers and the Municipal Joint Security Coordinating Center (MJSCC). Tomawis was immediately separated from the ballots and immediately put to restricted custody. He opted to stay in his vehicle and later stayed at IRA 911 office at the Parang town hall.

“He is viewed as trying to do partisan activities or electioneering activities which is forbidden by Comelec, and we are deputized to arrest and put them under restriction until the end of the election process, and to other  people who will attempt to cross the line”, Aradanas said on October 24.

“It’s not true that I commandeered the ballots, it was just coincidental that we came in a convoy, I came from Cotabato and they came from Buluan, We just met in Simuay. So they think we came together,” Tomawis said.

“He knew the killers”

Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu told MindaNews he would “leave it to the authorities to investigate and as governor who also has a quest for justice, I call on authorities to apprehend those who are responsible.”

He said he urged Tomawis’ family to “file a case against the culprits.”

“His companions saw the gunman,” he said.

A relative of Tomawis told MindaNews that some security personnel of Tomawis were in the market but he had two security personnel at home when the two suspects, described by the police as “teenagers,” entered the gate with documents purportedly for the vice mayor to sign.

“Nang lumabas si Alex, nag-usap pa daw sila. Tapos binaril na nila” (When Alex came out, they talked. Then they shot him), the relative said.

Task Group Tomawis

The Philippine National Police Regional Office (PRO XI) has set up Task Group Tomawis to investigate the killing. The task group is headed by Sr. Sup. Pedro Cabatingan, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit.

Task Group spokesperson Supt. Querubin Manalang, also PRO XI information officer,  acknowledged that Tomawis and his companions may have known the killers because the latter were able to enter the gate and pretend to have some documents signed.

Manalang told MindaNews  that reports from the investigators indicated Tomawis was in conversation with three persons and there were at least five others in the house when the “teenage-looking” gunmen arrived.

The Task Group, he said, is also coordinating with the police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao).

Barira is under the jurisdiction of the ARMM police. The town was part of Camp Abubakar, the main camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) until July 2000 when military troops took control of the area under then President Joseph Estrada’s “all-out war.”

The city police chief, Sr. Supt. Rene Aspera, is the task group’s deputy commander while the members are Sr. Supt. Joseph Sepulchre, acting chief of the Regional Investigation and Management Division; Sr. Supt. Filmore Escobal, acting chief of the Regional Intelligence Division; Sr. Supt. Igmidio Garcia, chief of the Regional Crime Laboratory; Manalang as regional information chief; Supt. Rey Manug, chief of the Regional Legal Services Office; and Supt. Leonardo Felonia, chief of the Regional Intelligence Office in Southern Mindanao. (MindaNews)