Security forces in Cotabato prepare for 2016 polls

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/20 November) – Military and police forces have stepped up efforts to address rising cases of violence in Cotabato City and neighboring areas in preparation for next year’s general elections.

In a summit Thursday with other security sectors, MGen Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, emphasized the need to be prepared and not just react to a situation.

The summit case in the wake of bombings in Cotabato City and Kabacan and Matalam towns in North Cotabato which hurt a total of 11 persons in the past six days.

“Our guiding principle is we must be prepared for all possibilities and not only reactive to a situation,” Pangilinan told regional security officials Wednesday.

Three bombing incidents last week left four persons, including two soldiers, injured.

Colonel Ranulfo Sevilla, commander of the 5th Army Special Forces Battalion, cited the case of a certain Ruben Montes, an alleged ring leader of a gun-for-hire group, who was said to be out to get back at government forces.

“I would like to tell you that he has the motive, he has the capability to get back at us and he has a protector who is an elected official,” Sevilla said, without naming the official.

More known as Black Moro, Montes was arrested on Oct. 7 for illegal possession of firearms after his group allegedly shot dead a bystander identified as “Tapa,” and fought responding Special Forces soldiers along SK Pendatun Avenue, Cotabato City.

Montes survived unscathed but his wife, brother and another gang member were killed. He was later arrested by soldiers and yielded two cal. 45 pistols.

But on Nov. 13, Montes was released on orders of Regional Trial Court Judge Bansawan Ibrahim after posting property bond.

This dismayed Colonel Sevilla who described Montes as a dangerous man.

The next day, Nov. 14, motorcycle-riding men fired a rifle grenade at 6:30 p.m. at the transformer station of Cotabato Light and Power Company along Sinsuat Avenue, triggering a city wide brownout.

Few minutes later, while the city was without electricity, two men, also riding tandem on a motorbike, fired an M-79 grenade toward a military truck loaded with soldiers patrolling Sinsuat Avenue, leaving two infantry men and two civilians hurt.

Sevilla said Montes was the primary suspect based on Army and police intelligence information.

He said members of illegal drug syndicates are also among the suspects after the Army dismantled illegal drug dens in the city the past week.

Pangilinan meanwhile endorsed a proposal to create a special court that will try sensational cases in Cotabato City and Maguindanao.

Sevilla, Region XII police director Chief Supt. Manolito Labador, and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director Chief Supt. Ronald Estilles also supported the move.

Pangilinan, speaking to reporters at the summit’s break, said he will work for the establishment of the special court and it should be based within Camp Siongco, the main headquarters of 6th Infantry Division. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)