NBI starts probe of killings, arson in MSU-Marawi

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews/30 October) – The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started investigating the arson and twin killings last week inside the Mindanao State University campus in Marawi City that claimed the lives of a philosophy professor and his student assistant.

Professor Othello Cobal and Erwin Escabo Diaz, his assistant, were reportedly shot and then burned with gasoline inside Coba’s internet café by three still unidentified men last Oct. 24. Estrella, Diaz’ 13-year old sister also suffered second- and third-degree burns.

Cobal, 41, graduated magna cum laude from MSU, while Diaz, 24, was a graduating student of hotel and restaurant management.

Atty. Alex Cabornay, chief of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Iligan city, said they have submitted their initial findings to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

Cabornay quoted witnesses as saying they saw three armed men enter the internet café, forcibly put its employees in a room and pour gasoline in the place while shouting “mga walang kwenta ang ginagawa nyo rito!” (You’re doing nonsense here)

He said the three men then burned the café located on the second floor of Mamintal Bato building. The fire also engulfed the adjacent two-storey building which hosted a number of stores.

The Land Bank of the Philippines office just below the Mindnolia café was not damaged by the fire which started at 8:35am of October 25.

Cobal had been teaching philosophy in MSU where he also studied law. He was the first to establish an internet café in the campus. He organized the university’s debating society and extended his assistance to other campuses.

Diaz’ college was also burned by unidentified men last October 9.

“As to the group behind this, I’m sorry that I cannot yet divulge what is in our intelligence information as we are still verifying and collating evidence against them. Initially, they are the same criminal group who make life in MSU and/or Marawi city problematic and miserable for law abiding citizens thereat,” said Cabornay.

He said Cobal had adopted Diaz who he had sent to school together with Estrella and another sister named Elizabeth.

PNoy’s help sought

The Mindanao State University Alumni Association (MSUAA) has called on President Benigno Aquino III to conduct an “assessment and determination of the leadership of the university; conduct thorough investigation on the lawlessness in the campus by the NBI for long term security measures; deployment of the Marines as immediate move to secure the campus and drive out lawless elements; apprehension and prosecution of the culprits and their trial in neutral grounds; and provide compensation for the damages for the victims.”

The MSUAA also “condoles with the relatives of the victims and wish them strength and faith in this trying time.” It also “prays that justice will ultimately prevail for their loved ones, and that their death will not be in vain but will one day become the watershed of reforms in our beloved university.”

The statement was signed by William R. Adan, Roberto N. Lim, David A. Tauli , Gloria S. Fernando, Zayda O. Macarambon, Alfredo D. Buno, Luz Sevidal-Castro and  its seven board members namely, Celestino D. Baldonado, Eleunesto E. Dumagan, Rhodora S. N. Englis, Halil A. Lucman, Alikhan B. Marohombsar, Raul G. Monton, and Taha D. Sarangani.

Condemnation

“The despicable and gruesome acts committed in broad daylight by lawless elements have no equal in the history of terror, mayhem and violence that have plagued MSU in recent years. Indeed, the incident last Thursday capped the many unsolved cases of banditry, kidnapping, rape, ambuscade, arson and other forms of lawlessness whose doomed victims have always been the vulnerable faculty and students of the university,” said a statement signed by Adan and other MSUAA officials and circulated online.

“To this day, no apprehensions in any of the incidents were made and no one suspect was ever haled to court to pay for his crime. The bad elements are believed to roam the campus freely and may repeat their dastardly acts at any time,” it said.

“The victims of the heinous crime last Thursday were murdered and burned inside the building they were renting where a number of people where gathered outside waiting for their turn at a Land Bank ATM station down below. That the perpetrators of the crime had the gall and bravado to do it under the circumstances and managed to escape easily without trace only shows the kind of security program or the lack of it in the prime university of the south.”

“The Association is aghast by the failure of university management, despite demands in similar occasions, to institute reliable systems and mechanisms to protect the life and limbs of university constituents. Without this protection, fear and uncertainty will continue to grip the heart of everyone and may result to indifference and apathy, a situation that will nullify the drive and ruin all efforts for excellence in the University,” MSUAA said.

“Words, at this time, cannot correct injustice, cannot bring back credibility, and cannot heal broken dreams. An external intervention is critically needed to restore order and sanity and to recapture, perhaps, the past glory of the Mindanao State University,” it added. (Violeta M. Gloria/MindaNews)

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