‘Bloody Friday’ in Mindanao
COTABATO CITY—It was a bloody Friday in Mindanao with five people killed in a span of one hour.
The killings on Friday morning in South Cotabato and Cotabato provinces followed a roadside bombing in Maguindanao 10 hours earlier that killed two, and an attack on a quarantine control checkpoint in Misamis Occidental a day earlier that killed a police officer and wounded three others.
News of the murder of Mayor Pablo Matinong Jr. greeted residents of Sto. Niño town in South Cotabato on Friday.
Matinong, 55, was taking his regular morning walk, without any bodyguard, when shot near his home in Purok Libertad of Barangay Poblacion sometime around 7:30 a.m.
Reymark Avance, one of the witnesses, said Matinong passed by a road that is being constructed to do some inspection.
The mayor was talking to three women when two gunmen aboard a motorbike arrived and pumped bullets on him, said Avance.
The gunmen then fled, but quickly returned and fired more bullets as if to finish off Matinong.
Avance said his mother, who was among the women Matinong talked to before the shooting, was slightly wounded on her shoulder.
Police Col. Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the gunmen approached Matinong from behind and shot him in the head.
Police Lt. Renjun Bagaman, spokesperson of the South Cotabato police, said investigators were still determining the motive for the attack on Matinong.
Bagaman noted that the mayor was tagged by President Duterte in 2016 as a “narcopolitician,” a charge that Matinong has repeatedly denied.
As a politician, he might have enemies, Bagaman said.
Joffrey Frinal, Sto. Niño town administrator, said Matinong had been receiving death threats but he just ignored these.
Matinong, a third-term mayor, is the second politician on Duterte’s narcolist to be killed this year. Last February, Mayor Abdul Wahab Sabal of Talitay town, Maguindanao province, was gunned down as he was entering a hotel in Manila.
An hour before Matinong’s killing, four persons were killed in an ambush in Pigcawayan town in Cotabato province.
The four were aboard a red vehicle when another vehicle appeared as they reached Barangay Tubon and opened fire.
Police recovered spent shells of M16 and M14 rifles in the crime scene. The victims are identified as Salahudin Usman, Sahabudia Kato Latip, 42, Nor Ibrahim S. Baraguir, and Muhalidin Esmail Amolan, 28.
Police Maj. Ivan Samoraza, Pigcawayan municipal police chief, said they were still establishing the motive of the attack.
On Thursday night, a police officer and a civilian were killed in a roadside bombing in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao at around 8:30 p.m.
Killed in the blast were Police Master Sergeant Antonio Balasa and a civilian identified only as Bobby, driver of a police patrol car.
The blast also injured Police Sergeant Larry Amoran, Police Staff Sergeant Guerrero Domingo, Police Corporals Guia Mangrag and Clyde Peria, all belonging to the 2nd Police Mobile Force Company.
Peria sustained serious shrapnel injuries and was rushed to the Cotabato Regional Medical Center in Cotabato City.
The victims were on board a police patrol car heading to Camp Akilan Ampatuan, headquarters of the Maguindanao police provincial office in Shariff Aguak, when the bomb went off on the roadside.
The bomb was believed to have been mobile phone triggered.
Anwar Emblawa, Shariff Aguak town administrator, said the victims were rushed to the Maguindanao Provincial Hospital in Datu Hoffer town, about 800 meters from the blast site.
The roadside bombing happened amid tight security imposed by the military along the national highway following a series of attacks by local Islamic State terrorists a week earlier.
Also on Friday, a police officer in Misamis Occidental province who was wounded in an attack on Thursday died while being treated in a hospital in Ozamiz City.
Police Cpl. Martin Intong succumbed to gunshot wounds he got in a gunfight at 8 a.m. on Thursday in Barangay Potongan of Concepcion town, said Police Lt. Charien Estenzo, information officer of the Misamis Occidental police.
Three other police officers who were wounded in the attack were Police Staff Sergeant Larry Milan, Police Cpl. Leo Gumisad and Police Pat. Richel Tañola.
The four were among eight cops assigned to a quarantine control checkpoint in the village.
Police said the armed men were believed to be New People’s Army rebels, although the military said the attackers, numbering about 10, were followers of a former town councilor. —WITH REPORTS FROM BONG SARMIENTO, DIVINA SUSON AND JEOFRREY MAITEM
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