THE Philippine National Police leadership yesterday vowed to leave no stones unturned in the investigation into a gunbattle between police anti-narcotics agents and heavily-armed occupants of two vans in North Cotabato last Friday which left a Maguindanao mayor in President Duterte’s ‘narco-list’ and nine of his men dead.
According to PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo B. Carlos, there would be an impartial investigation into the clash that killed Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Otto Dimaukom and nine of his companions in Makilala, North Cotabato.
Police are under orders from President Duterte to shoot armed suspects if they feel their lives are in danger and in order to protect other people’s lives.
Since July 1, seven policemen and three soldiers have been killed while 24 PNP personnel and eight Armed Forces operatives were also wounded while fighting armed and defiant drug dealers.
Although officials declared that the encounter occurred after the occupants of the two vans opened fire at officers manning a checkpoint in Bgy. Balatukan prompting the lawmen to engage them in a gunbattle, the PNP will also investigate claims by the slain suspects’ relatives that the 10 were killed in a ‘rubout.’
Carlos said that as a standard operating procedure and as part of the PNP policy, police will not tolerate any irregularities in the performance of duty and will see to it that appropriate measures will be imposed on any member of the force who have violated the law.
“Kung may mali, kung may nakikitang irregularities, mapapanagot natin itong mga pulis na involved sa insidente,” Carlos said. The PNP Internal Affairs Service will also conduct a ‘motu propio’ investigation into the incident.
Carlos, however, said there is a need for relatives and other personalities claiming there was no real shootout in Bgy. Balatukan to come forward and give their official testimonies and if possible, present other pieces of evidence and witnesses that will bolster their claim.
Maguindanao Rep. Dodong Mangudadatu earlier expressed disbelief on the police account of the encounter and pointed out that the mayor’s car was parked properly after the exchange of fire. The lawmaker also expressed surprise on why only a few sachets of suspected shabu were confiscated from the mayor if he really were a big-time drug trafficker.
“Iyung mga allegation, suspicion po na ganyan, mas maganda pa na ito ay maibigay po bilang observation para mas laong mapagtibay po iyung isinasagawang imbestigasyon kung may pagkakamali po iyung ating mga pulis,” Carlos said.
Last Friday morning, members of the PNP Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, the Makilala Municipal Police Station, the Regional Public Safety Battalion 12 and the CIDG North Cotabato clashed with the group of Mayor Dimaukom in Bgy. Old Balatukan killing the mayor and his nine heavily-armed companions, said PNP-AIDG director Senior Supt. Albert Ignatius D. Ferro.
According to Ferro, his men, led by Chief Insp. Jovit Culaway coordinated their operation to get the suspects after receiving information from a confidential agent that the group of Mayor Dimaukom will transport illegal drugs to Maguindanao and Cotabato area on board a Toyota Land Cruiser (UMV-676) and a Toyota Super Grandia (LGZ-243).
Ferro said that the lawmen set up a checkpoint at the possible route of the group and at around 4:30 a.m. Friday, spotted the two vehicles. He said that the two vehicles stopped a few meters away from the checkpoint before its occupants opened fire at the officers who were forced to retaliate.
The brief gunbattle resulted in the wounding of Mayor Dimaukom and his companions. All died while being taken to the Midway Hospital and Makilala Medical Specialist for treatment.