South Upi mayor survives third slay try; 1 killed, 4 others injured

SOUTH UPI, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 03 January) – The mayor of South Upi in Maguindanao survived an ambush Sunday afternoon but one of his security escorts was killed while three others were injured.

It was the third attempt on the life of Mayor Reynalbert Insular since July 2016.

The mayor’s four-vehicle convoy had just left Barangay Itaw at around 2:10 p.m. en route to Poblacion Romongaob, when armed men carrying high-powered firearms ambushed them in Barangay Pandan, following a roadside explosion. The police report said the ambush site was “more or less 400 meters away” from a detachment of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA).

This red pick-up is part of the four-vehicle convoy of South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular during the ambush on Sunday afternoon, 03 January 2021, in Barangay Pandan, South Upi, Maguindanao. The mayor survived but a security escort who was in this vehicle was killed. Four others were injured. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH B. CABRERA

Four persons, including students who hitched a ride in one of the vehicles, were injured, one of them in critical condition, a security escort of the mayor named Thelmo Divinagracia, 28 years old,  who later died.

The four injured were identified as John-john Tumbaga, 30; Christian Sase, 22; Ernesto Debang, and Leonard Betita, 20.

The mayor spent two days in Barangay Itaw which was attacked on New Year’s day by armed men believed to be members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

At least 13 houses in Itaw were set on fire by suspected BIFF members while around 300 families were displaced.

Troops from the 57th IB immediately deployed in the area of incident while two MG-520 assault jets were deployed by 6th Division.

This is the second ambush try on Mayor Insular. The first was on July 14, 2016, on his first term in office, when unidentified armed men fired a rocket-propelled grenade, but missed, while the mayor’s convoy was cruising along Kilometer 28 in neighboring North Upi town.

The second attempt was on June 22, 2020 when a roadside bomb exploded as the driver of the mayors vehicle was about to park at the back of the town hall.  The mayor had just arrived from Cotabato City and had opted to stay home. The driver proceeded to the town hall to park the vehicle. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)