Maguindanao vice governor, kin absolved of murder raps

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/28 February) – Maguindanao Vice Governor Datu Dustin Mastura, two of his uncles and nine other persons have been cleared by the Department of Justice of alleged involvement  in the killing of Barira vice mayor Alexander Tomawis in Davao City over a year ago.

Prosecutor-General Claro Arellano dismissed the complaint accusing the Masturas of masterminding the killing of Alex Tomawis, a three-time mayor of Barira town before becoming vice mayor, for lack of evidence.

Tomawis was reportedly shot dead in Buhangin, Davao City by two gunmen on Nov. 28, 2010.

The DOJ panel that investigated the case comprised of prosecutor Ria Niña Sususco, assistant state prosecutor Grace Ruiz, and senior state prosecutor Roberto Lao.

“This is a blatant conspiracy to drag our name, it’s baseless and filled with falsity”, the vice governor said.

Talking to reporters here, Datu Tucao Mastura, an uncle of the vice governor and mayor of Sultan Kudarat said he was delighted to learn of the DOJ’s decision.

He said politics was the motive behind the filing of the complaint, adding a friend of his from the DOJ told him somebody was following up the case “in order to pin  us down.”

“In the first place there was no reason for us to kill Mayor Alex Tomawis because there was no animosity between our clans,” Tucao’s brother Mayor Mando Mastura of Sultan Mastura town said.

Tomawis’ widow Bai Fatima, mayor of Buldon town and primary complainant, tagged the Masturas as having hired two men to kill her husband.

MindaNews tried to contact her through her mobile phone for comment but she did not respond to the calls and text messages.

The lawyer of the Masturas, John Rangal Nadua, told reporters they presented enough evidence showing the innocence of his clients.

The Masturas however lamented that two of their allies who were included in the charge sheet were killed in an ambush last month in Barangay Nituan, Parang town by heavily armed men on their way home on board a private van.

They said Raul Tomawis, who ran in 2007 as Tucao’s vice governor of the defunct Shariff Kabunsuan province, and Rosalim Bangon were killed before they could clear their names.

“The death of the two had something to do with the case filed against us. It’s very clear who did the ambush, and now those who accused us will also face the same legal charges we had encountered,” Tucao Mastura said.

Raul Tomawis and Bangon had sworn to the Qur’an, in a traditional rite witnessed by clerics and relatives, that they had nothing to do with the death of Alex Tomawis.

Tucao Mastura urged authorities to dig deeper into the case to identify the real mastermind in the killing of Alex Tomawis.

He claimed the police and the military have “vital information” on who was behind the incident. He did not elaborate.

Meanwhile, the mayor would not confirm rumors he was planning to run as governor in 2013.

“It’s up to the people to decide but for now it’s not yet on my mind,” Tucao Mastura, provincial chair of the Liberal Party, said. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)