3 suspects in killing of Manobo leader nabbed in North Cotabato

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) – Three of the four suspects in the murder of a Manobo tribal leader in Magpet town were arrested in two separate areas in North Cotabato, a police officer said.

Police Major Jujie Barotas, chief of the Magpet municipal police station, identified the suspects as Jerry Ansabo Sales of Sitio Kiapat, Barangay Ganatan in Arakan town, Rey Pasayao Ansabo and Junnel Ansabo Rubino, both residents of Kabacan town.

Magpet, North Cotabato. Map courtesy of Google

Barotas said the suspects were nieces of the victim identified as Bae Milda Ansabo, 50, of Purok 2-B, Sitio Tagaytay, Barangay Mahongkog.

He said witnesses identified a certain Rufino Rubilito of Arakan town as the triggerman. Considered the mastermind, he has remained at large.

Rubilito’s wife is an Ansabo, also a relative of the victim.

Sales was arrested in Barangay Mahongkog proper in Magpet on August 25, and Rubino and Ansabo in Kabacan town on August 26 by elements of the Magpet police and intelligence operatives of the Regional Intelligence Unit of the Police Regional Office in Region 12. They were turned over to the Magpet police.

The victim’s daughter, a key witness to the killing, positively identified the suspects when they were presented to her on August 27.

The arrests came two days after Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco, also a Manobo, ordered a thorough probe of the incident and the arrest of the suspects.

Barotas said their investigation showed the killing could have stemmed either from a land conflict or a “power struggle” among members of the Ansabo clan.

A member of the clan was allegedly interested in Bae Milda’s position. But Barotas said this has yet to be validated.

On August 23, the victim and her pregnant daughter were walking home in Sitio Tagaytay when the suspects blocked their path.

The daughter told police that she ran away upon seeing that the suspects were carrying a shotgun and a long knife. Minutes later, she heard shots.

Autopsy results showed that aside from gunshot wounds the victim also sustained hack wounds in different parts of her body.

Barotas said he considered the case closed with the arrest of three of the suspects and filing of a murder complaint against them and Rubilito. (Malu Cadeliña-Manar/MindaNews)