Police account of bloody Cotabato raid disputed
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Cotabato, Philippines — Moro residents at Gokotan village in Pikit, Cotabato, dismissed police accounts of the Dec. 29 raid involving 400 alleged stolen motorcycles that resulted in the killing of six people and the wounding of three policemen and a resident.
The area where the raid happened is under the control Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), prompting the MILF Ad hoc Joint Action Group (Ahjag) to question why the government team failed to coordinate with MILF forces in launching the operation.
Killed during the raid were Badrudin Masulot Dalid, 65, owner of SMZ Marketing; Badrudin’s daughter, Arbaya Dalid Panisares, 42, the store cashier; Sharif Kabunto, 18, son of MILF commander Satar Kabunto; and MILF members Saligan Hamsa, Asraf Dalid Masulot and Harris “Piraw” Macagba.
Residents questioned the police report describing the fatalities as motorcycle “thieves,” as they demanded justice for their deaths. They also said that people in the area, being an MILF community, did not harbor members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), as police earlier claimed.
According to Dalid’s daughters, the motorcycles seized from the family’s possession were not stolen and had proper documents which were seized by the raiding team. SMZ Marketing is engaged in buying and selling motorcycles.
The joint police and military operation was about to serve an arrest warrant to Maula Manampan, who was on the police’s list of most wanted persons, when they were fired upon by the suspects, according to Brig. Gen. Alexander Tagum, the regional police commander.
“The subject (Manampan) was able to escape taking advantage of the darkness while five armed suspects [died],” he said. Tagum said the government team discovered more than 400 units of assorted motorcycles hidden inside a makeshift warehouse and assorted improvised explosive device components.
He also said that around 50 heavily armed BIFF members were serving as security forces of Manampan, the alleged car theft syndicate leader who maintained a warehouse in Barangay Gokotan.
Accounts by Nursala Abdul Dalid and Maysarah Dalid Sager, Dalid’s daughters, said the raiding team arrived at 2:30 a.m. and went first to the house of Manampan, where they fired their guns. The sisters said Manampan’s house was about 175 meters away from their father’s, which was inside a compound.
Failing to arrest Manampan, the raiding team proceeded to Dalid’s house. When the raiding team started shooting at Dalid’s house, their sister Arbaya ran out, dragging her two children along with her. She was hit by a bullet.
Dalid, who was sickly due to diabetes and hypertension, also ran out of the house, assisted by a 16-year-old girl. He died from a bullet wound while the girl was wounded.
After this, the raiding team went to the third house, owned by MILF commander Satar Kabunto, about 150 meters away.
Kabunto, who was interviewed by the Inquirer on Dec. 31, 2021, said he was puzzled when the troops asked him to come out of his house. When his son Sharif, also known as Bunta, tried to open the door, the raiding team rained the door with bullets.
Kabunto said he opened fire at the authorities and managed to escape. He also admitted that among the firearms taken from his house were an M60 machine gun, two Armalite rifles, an M79 grenade launcher, an Ultimax light machine gun and P60,000 cash, among others. The firearms were MILF property, he said.
Arnal Timan, commander of the 129th Base Command of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the sixth fatality was Macagba, an officer under his command, who drowned in the nearby Maridagao River when he tired to cross it to avoid the clash with the government troops.
Anwar Alamada, chair of the MILF committee in the Ahjag, said they condemned the total disregard by operating troops of the ceasefire protocol signed by the government and the MILF.
Ahjag, a cooperative mechanism between the MILF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to address criminality and terrorism, has installed operation protocols, which required government troops to inform and coordinate with the MILF the date and time of their operations, so the MILF would have enough time to pull out their troops. This was agreed upon to prevent a bloody clash, like what happened in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 2015.
Cotabato Board Member Dulia Sultan said government troops should have coordinated with local officials before they entered the village.
In a dialogue between residents and MILF officials in Pikit on Sunday, Wahid Tundok, commander of the MILF’s 118th Base Command, called for sobriety to preserve the gains of the peace process between the government and the MILF as families of the slain victims sought justice.
Alamada said his group would file a protest in the Ahjag against the raiding team.
The MILF said that except for Arbaya, the victims were all members of the MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 and currently heads a transitional government in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“The operation is legitimate but it failed to adhere to the ceasefire protocols of the peace process,” Von Al Haq, the MILF spokesperson, said.
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