NoCot journalists ask police to stop highway robberies in Pikit

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews) — After one of their colleagues was killed in a highway robbery Saturday night in Pikit town in North Cotabato, journalists in North Cotabato urged authorities to curb the rash of highway robberies that have victimized a number of commuters.

Romeo Benjumai, who wrote for the Fiscalizer, a weekly newspaper based in Midsayap, was gunned down by four robbers along with passenger van driver Johnny Cadungog, police reports said.

Radio reporter Rex Torino, president of the P-Palma Press Corps, said the death of Benjumia and other victims of highway robberies in Pikit town showed that police lack seriousness in curbing these crimes.

“I just wonder why the police in Pikit town failed to respond to the robbery incident when the area was just few blocks away from their station,” said Torino.

The highway robbery in Pikit last Saturday was the third since Thursday last week, he noted.

On Thursday, robbers shot dead a pawnshop cashier when she tried to wrestle with them after they carted her bag.

On Friday afternoon, a businessman from Midsayap identified as Alex Dendi was also killed after motorcycle-riding thieves seized his motorcycle along the highway in Pikit.

Daghang insidente sa Pikit nga wala nahatagan og kasulbaran (There are so many incidents in Pikit that have remained unsolved),” said Torino.

Senior Insp. Elias Dandan, chief of Pikit police, called the statement unfair.

“They just don’t know what we’ve done as our immediate response after we received the holdup incident report,” said Dandan.

He said he led a team of police and Army personnel in North Cotabato in pursuing a group that was supposedly responsible for the latest highway robbery resulting in the arrest of Tohamie Gumaga, brother of the alleged leader of a robbery gang operating along the Pikit-Pagalungan-Pagagawan highway.

Gumaga was arrested around 5:40 a.m. Sunday, in his brother’s alleged hideout in Sitio Buisan, Barangay Batulawan in Pikit.

Dandan said the gang leader identified as Ali Mamaluba Gumaga aka Arnold M. Abid evaded arrest.

Police recovered from Gumaga’s place a .45 caliber pistol and a Suzuki raider motorcycle, which was reportedly the same vehicle used in last Saturday’s robbery that killed Benjumia and Cadungog.

Benjumia was onboard a Toyota hi-ace van with plate number TTD 864 driven by Cadungog when they were flagged down by the robbers who were all armed with handguns.

One of the robbers shot the driver in the head when he tried to accelerate the van. They also shot Benjumai when he refused to hand his mobile phone and other personal belongings.

The hold-uppers carted some P20 thousand in cash and valuables from the victims, including the money intended for tuition from a student that rode the van. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)