Kin of slain mayor seek independent probe
COTABATO CITY—Suspecting a rubout, not a shootout as the police claim, relatives of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom, who was killed, along with nine of his men, in an alleged antidrug operation, are seeking an independent investigation after initial forensic reports showed that most of those killed had been shot in the head.
The 54-year-old mayor of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province and his men were killed allegedly in a predawn gun battle in Makilala, North Cotabato province, on Friday—purportedly triggered by their refusal to be flagged down at a police checkpoint.
The men were in a two-vehicle convoy en route home from Davao City when they allegedly shot it out with policemen who were reportedly conducting an antidrug operation at 4:30 a.m. on the national highway at Barangay Bulatukan in Makilala.
Bullet wounds in the head
Most of the dead bore bullet wounds in the head, according to relatives, who questioned police accounts that there was a shootout and insisted that the incident was a “rubout.”
Some friends and relatives of Dimaukom, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said relying solely on police investigation by scene of the crime operatives would not reveal the truth.
Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., regional police spokesperson, stressed that the deaths of Dimaukom and his companions were the result of a legitimate encounter.
Dimaukom and his group reportedly opened fire at the policemen, who fired back in self-defense.
Nur Hafizullah Abdullah, interior secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the complaints of the slain men’s relatives had reached his attention.
“Let’s wait for the official police findings and, if dissatisfied, doubters can ask for a reinvestigation or a separate inquiry by an independent probe body,” said Abdullah when sought for legal advice by the mayor’s relatives.
Widow assumes post
Dimaukom’s widow, Vice Mayor Anida Abas-Dimaukom, assumed the post that was left vacant by her husband’s death.
Dimaukom was buried on the same day, according to Islamic rites.
Another lawyer, Anwar Malang, agreed that the killing of Dimaukom needed a second look.
“A no-holds-barred investigation is necessary to appease the living,” said Malang, currently ARMM secretary on trade and investments.
Dimaukom was named by President Duterte among some 150 former and incumbent government officials with links to the narcotics trade.
Known for his fondness for pink, which he said is the color of love and peace, Dimaukom and his wife Anida had turned themselves in to Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa to clear their names.
Last month, the police swooped down on the couple’s residence, but failed to recover any illegal drug or firearm.
According to the police, the mayor and his security escorts were transporting illegal drugs from Davao City to Cotabato aboard three vehicles when they were flagged down at the checkpoint.
However, only 13 sachets containing “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) were recovered from the vehicles.
The vehicles also yielded only six firearms, mostly handguns, contradicting the police claim that Dimaukom’s group was heavily armed.
Dismantling of checkpoints
On Saturday, Mr. Duterte directed the dismantling of checkpoints by security forces. He said the arrangement had caused public inconvenience, especially in Mindanao.
“Only if it is necessary, only if there is specific reason to do it, I am ordering all checkpoints dismantled,” the President said in a speech in Cotabato City on Saturday.
“And that is for the entire country. I do not want these checkpoints,” he said.
The President, who led the launch of the comprehensive reform and development agenda for the ARMM, noted how military and police checkpoints had hampered travel in Mindanao.
He lamented that even rebel groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the communist New People’s Army had put up their own security blockades in areas which they controlled.
“If there’s a suspect or you know there’s a probability or A1 information, (then you can set up a checkpoint),” he said. “But if you’re not sure, then don’t do it.”
Added the President: “To the MILF, if you don’t have any purpose, don’t use checkpoints. It’s also the same with the MNLF … . It only brings problems to the Filipinos.”
During his speech, Mr. Duterte briefly mentioned Dimaukom’s death, but opted not to comment on the matter. Nevertheless, he reiterated his administration’s fierce war on drugs, which had led to the death of nearly 4,000 individuals. WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS AND LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.