Death toll in Kabacan ambush rises to 9; Bangsamoro gov’t, BIAF want probe

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/ 31 August)  – The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) will conduct a separate probe into Saturday’s ambush-slay in Kabacan, North Cotabato, as the death toll rose to nine when the lone survivor died in the hospital.

“These senseless violent acts have no place in a progressive society, especially at a time when people are in a grip of global pandemic. We want justice,” a statement posted on the FB page of the Bangsamoro Government on Sunday said.

“Although the unfortunate incident happened outside of our area of jurisdiction, all of the victims were identified as Bangsamoros” and “in view of this and the fact that we have received different reports from our communities, the Bangsamoro Government will also be conducting its separate investigation on this brutality.”

It said it was willing to cooperate with the provincial government of North Cotabato and the municipal government of Kabacan “to get into the bottom of this ruthless killing.”

The 18-month old BARMM, a product of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsmaoro, the peace pact signed by government and the MILF in 2014, is led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF heads the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the body governing the BARMM during the three-year transition period that will end on June 30, 2022.

The MILF’s armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) also issued a statement on Sunday, signed by Abdulraof “Sammy Al Mansoor” Macacua, BIAF Chief of Staff.“In deference to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, BIAF will ask the National Bureau of Investigation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the tragic incident and bring the perpetrators to justice. BIAF is also hoping that the pursuit operation, if any, of the PNP (Philippine National Police) will yield some positive result that can contribute to the speedy and just resolution of these cases,”  the BIAF Chief said.

Macacua is also the Executive Secretary of the Bangsamoro Cabinet and is a Member of the Interim Bangsamoro Parliament.

The 2014 peace agreement provides for a phased decommissioning of  the MILF’s armed combatants and weapons.

In his statement  signed as BIAF Chief, Macacua said what happened in Kabacan “reminds us of the dark period in our not so recent past, when the Bangsamoro people were besieged and beleaguered in their very own ancestral homeland, by forces who are privileged with impunity and assured of unbridled movement in the senseless and brutal murder of unarmed civilians.”

“BIAF seeks to reassure our people and communities that your combatants are still here.  That we continue to abide by the peace process.  We will not tolerate the reemergence of violence and hostilities against unarmed Bangsamoro in their defenseless communities.  We have assured our people and communities that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro will provide them peace, security and prosperity. “

Deputy minority floor leader , Attorney Suharto “Teng” Ambolodto  of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority also condemned what happened in Kabacan.

“Nothing good ever comes out of brutality as it only creates huge havoc and division in our nation. Let us desist from the culture of violence and strive to live in a better world of unity and harmony”, he said.

“We call upon the government, the security forces and the National Bureau of Investigation to take rigid and swift action against the people behind this scheme and to conduct an even-handed and unbiased investigation while hoping that the pursuit operations will yield positive results,” the statement added.

Major Peter Pinalgan Jr, Kabacan town police chief, said Tong Guiaman, 30, married and resident of Barangay Buluan,  expired shortly after 4 p.m. on Saturday while undergoing treatment in a private hospital.

Pinalgan said eight of the victims died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds in the head and body after they were strafed while standing on the roadside along Aringay Road, near the state-run University of Southern Mindanao campus.

Pinalgan said the nine – eight farmers and a driver – were riding on six motorcycles when they were “allegedly ordered to stop by unidentified suspects and when they all alighted from their respective motorcycles they were shot several times.”

He said the suspects used high powered firearms like M-16 Armalite rifle, Carbine rifle and cal. 45 pistol based on the empty shells found in the crime scene.

Witnesses said the unidentified suspects fled towards direction of Barangay Aringay.

Scene of the Crime Operatives found 32 empty shells from different firearms.

Pinalgan said investigation continues as to the identities and motive of the perpetrators.

Aside from Guiaman, Pinalgan identified the eight other victims as farmer Kons Kalilangan, 35, married and a resident of Barangay Aringay; driver Romeo Balatamay, 35, married, also from the same barangay;  farmer Saganding Sailon, 30, resident of Barangay Osias; farmer Benladin Dimanalao, 25, single, resident of Aleosan town; farmer Jaiden Musaid, 25, resident of Midsayap town; farmer Katindig Kagayawon, 25, resident of Barangay Buluan; farmer Fahad Mandigan, 30, married, resident of Sitio Agpa, Barangay Kayaga and farmer Budsal Jakaria Lipusin, 37, married, resident of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Teams from the Bangsamoro government led by Board Member Kelly Antao, the caretaker leader of Bangsamoro government for the 53 villages now under the Bangsamoro government called for an emergency meeting  Sunday for the conduct of an independent investigation.

There was no clear motive yet behind the killing. What is clear is that at least five armed men flagged down the victims then followed by burst of fire killing instantly eight  of the victims. The ninth died in the hospital. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)