GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/30 November) – Police and Army units based in Sarangani province have launched an “all-out pursuit” against a ragtag group of bandits operating in the hinterland areas of Malungon town following its recent attacks in the area that led to the killing of a local resident.
Malungon Mayor Reynaldo Constantino said Tuesday the local government specifically requested for the intensified operations against the bandits in a bid to end the group’s criminal activities and stop them from sowing terror among residents in at least four villages in the area.
On Monday, suspected bandits attacked a portion of Barangay Kibala in Malungon and killed a civilian identified as Merlinda Sumugat, who was then gathering firewood in the area.
A police report said the bandits might have mistaken the victim as a soldier due to the military fatigue-type cap she was wearing.
Another report from the Malungon police station said the bandits fired but narrowly missed a teacher and her husband from Barangay Miasong in Tupi, South Cotabato who passed by Barangay B’laan aboard a motorcycle.
“This is too much. We cannot take this anymore so I think it’s time for our police and military to take them out at all costs,” the mayor said.
Constantino said the suspects were part of a group of bandits who did not heed the local government’s calls to reform and lay down their arms during the last three years.
He said at least 85 percent of the bandits in the area have responded to their call but a number of them decided to remain in the mountains and continue with their criminal activities, which include armed robberies, cattle rustling and marijuana cultivation.
The mayor said their latest monitoring showed that at least 15 armed bandits are still operating in the town’s hinterland areas, specifically in Barangays Kibala, Alkikan, B’laan and Datal Bato.
“For those who have not heeded our calls and refused to reform, you’ve run out of chances. Now our authorities will run after you,” he declared.
Aside from the police and military personnel, Constantino said they have directed members of the Civilian Volunteer Organizations or CVOs in the area to join the campaign against the bandits.
But he appealed to local residents not to take vengeance in their own hands and just leave everything to local law enforcement personnel to resolve the matter.
He said several residents appealed to the local government during an earlier meeting to provide them with firearms so they can fight the bandits.
“We have enough troops and police personnel assigned in the area and I don’t think it’s proper for us to arm civilians,” he said.
Constantino added that he instructed local police personnel to properly secure the affected villages to avert possible retaliatory attacks from the bandits. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)