1 killed, 1 wounded in series of pre-poll violence in Maguindanao

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 8 May) – A grenade exploded in front of the house of the mayor of Shariff Aguak, grenade launchers were fired towards the town hall of Datu Unsay and a head teacher who will serve as municipal board of canvasser was shot to death in Sultan Mastura, all in Maguindanao province, just five days before election day.

Around 6:40 p.m. Tuesday, during brownout, a hand grenade exploded in front of the house of Mayor Sahara Ampatuan in Shariff Aguak. Sahara is wife of detained Anwar Ampatuan, who was one of the primary suspects in the Maguindanao Massacre. Her house is located near the national highway and a few meters from the local terminal and market.

Wounded in the blast is Gardo Tamondok, 18, son of the mayor’s driver. He sustained shrapnel wounds in the different parts of his body, but was pronounced to be in stable condition after he was rushed to a hospital here.

“After my evening prayer, I was coming down for dinner when the grenade exploded by the gate, the mayor said. Ampatuan added that before the explosion, two men riding a motorcycle and wearing masks came close to the gate.

“I cant comment if this is politically motivated or work related. I have a lot of threats, they said they will ambush or bomb me, but for me there is no space for fear or else I cannot perform my job,” Ampatuan said, apparently unfazed over the violence.

She said she has lost count as to how many times she experienced violence in her hometown since she sat in office.

Inspector Marlon Silvestre, chief of Shariff Aguak police, said the mayor’s statement will serve as their lead in the investigation.

He said they found the safety lever of the grenade close to the blas site. “ So more likely the source of the grenade is very near the vicinity of the explosion, so it’s possible that the suspects could just be nearby, or possibly even one of the mayor’s people,” Silvestre said.

Meanwhile, at 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, four rounds from an M-79 grenade launcher were fired at the back of Datu Unsay municipal hall, although only three exploded, causing damage on the walls.

Inspector June Aine Rojas, the town police chief, said this could be part of harassment by some groups who wanted to disrupt the electoral process.

The local police station is just a few meters away from the municipal hall and an Army detachment is only 300 meters away.

Around 6 a.m. today, Loreto Tajon, 52, head teacher of Tuka Elementary School in the town of Sultan Mastura, was shot to death by men in a motorcycle as he was to send his cow to graze in Barangay Macabiso.

He was shot with a caliber .45 handgun on his left eye. Neighbors rushed him to the nearest hospital but failed to get there alive.

Reports said Tajon was set to serve as municipal board of canvasser in the coming polls.

Mayor Mando Mastura, in an interview over local radio station DXMS this morning, lamented the fate of Tajon, which he said could be considered as election violence.

But Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police provincial director, said they have yet to investigate before they could say the if the killing is election related.