KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 2 Sep) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has organized a special team tasked to investigate the August 29 shooting of nine persons in Kabacan, North Cotabato.
Major Peter Pinalgan, chief of the Kabacan Municipal Police Station, said the task force is headed by their superior, Col. Henry Villar, director of the Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO).
The group was organized after Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco gave the police a marching order to identify those behind the killings and place them behind bars.
Pinalgan said among the tasks given to the special investigation team was to link with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Regional Anti-Cyber Crime Prevention Unit based in General Santos City to identify netizens or groups sowing hate messages in social media.
Pinalgan told media here that it was unfortunate that the shooting that killed nine Moro civilians was pictured in social media as the start of a “Muslim-Christian” war.
“That is not true. There is no such thing as Muslim-Christian war. This is just mere mass shooting with a motive that we have yet to fathom or dig deeper,” he stressed in an interview over RONDA FM TeleRadyo 106.1.
The task force is also bent to dispel as “fake news” the reports that circulated over social media that the PNP was behind the killings and that it was a retaliation to avenge the death on August 24 of former Carmen PNP chief, Major Joan Resurrecion.
But the regional director of the Commission on Human Rights in Region 12, lawyer Erlan Deluvio, said on Tuesday that the ninth victim, identified as Nasher Guiaman, told CHR-12 investigators before he died in the hospital that policemen stopped and shot them.
“This dying declaration of the victim who managed to speak to his relatives before he died alleging policemen were behind [the killings] will be very important to the case,” he pointed out.
Police Colonel Bernard Tayong, the task force spokesman, said their group had started profiling possible suspects in the shooting.
Tayong stressed the slugs recovered at the crime scene were already submitted to the PNP Crime Laboratory for “cross-matching.”
The suspects, he hinted, could be part of a group connected to a terror organization or a criminal syndicate.
Tayong refused, though, to provide media results of such investigations as it might put in danger the lives of their key witnesses.
The task force is composed of key officers from CPPO, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and the NBI Anti-Crime Prevention Unit.
The Philippine Army in North Cotabato has also joined the probe and tasked its intelligence unit to coordinate with the local police.
“We are doing this to prevent escalation of conflict. We don’t want this incident to hamper our peace and development efforts,” said Tayong.
On Tuesday, Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman called a meeting for members of the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) where they discussed primarily the August 29 shooting incident.
Among those that attended the MPOC were police officers and key officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), and MILF Local Monitoring Team. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)