By ALI G. MACABALANG
KABACAN, North Cotabato – Moro officials and residents here alongside supporters from outside areas have called on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to reveal their findings on the massacre of nine Muslim farmers in this town a year ago.
Engr. Fathma Guiabar, an elected Kabacana Sangguniang Bayan (SB) member, led several justice-seekers a peace rally on Aug. 29 at the same road spot near a secondary gate of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) campus here where bonnet-wearing armed men herded and executed nine motorcycle-riding farmers exactly a year ago.
“Where is the justice now? … I hope the cry for justice in the killing of our Bangsamoro brothers will not be forgotten,” Councilor Guibar, using a megaphone, said at the rally marking the massacre’s first year anniversary.
The town SB passed a resolution calling for the PNP and NBI leaderships to publicize honest results of their probes on the incident, a copy of which was read by Guiabar at the rally.
Investigations said nine victims aboard separate motorbikes were unarmed and traveling from Barangay Aringgay here when hooded armed men flagged them down, herded them to the roadside and fired at them. These refuted an earlier report that the incident was a shootout.
Eight of the victims were killed on the spot, while the ninth victim named as Nasher “Tong” Guiaman succumbed to bullet wounds in hospital.
CHR-XII Director Erland Deluvio, citing tips from grieving kin, said Guiaman before dying had confessed that their attackers were cops.
The eight other victims were named as Kors Salilangan, Sandigan Zailon, Benladin Dimanalao, Romeo Balatamay, Katindig Kagayawon, and Fahad Mandigan, all residents of Kabacan town; Budsal Lipusan of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao; and Musaid Jaiden of Midsayap town in North Cotabato province.
Due to the alleged involvement of cops, seven Muslim members of the House of Representatives filed a resolution for a joint inquiry on the massacre. But the inquiry did not materialize for an unknown reason.
On Sept. 2, 2020, Lt. Gen. Camilo Cascolan, upon assuming office as new PNP chief, vowed to launch a probe on the incident after Crame reporters informed him of alleged cops’ involvement in the incident.
The North Cotabato provincial government reportedly organized a special task group composed of probers from the provincial police office, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and Kabacan LGU representatives to jointly investigate the incident.
The local military establishment also conducted a separate probe due to the implication of the incident to the state’s peace deals with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Three of the fatalities were reportedly members of the MILF.
NBI local agents were also reported to have conducted their own investigation of the massacre as residents here saw them deployed on the scene and at a rally held a couple of days later.
Last year, Philippine Muslim Today (PMT) news sources said some USM security guards witnessed the incident, even as one of them had corroborated the alleged involvement of cops.
Bangsamoro autonomous government Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim, who also chairs the MILF, had tasked his Public Order and Safety Minister Hussein Muñoz as well as the Bangsamoro Commission on Human Rights to conduct a parallel probe.
Ebrahim had also dispatched a team from his Ministry of Social Services and Development to interview relatives of the massacre victims and provide them financial assistance.
Alleged police ‘mistaken retaliation’
There were speculations that the massacre here could be a “mistaken retaliation” by cops, notably loyal subordinates of Police Major Joan Resurrecion, lady police chief of adjacent Carmen town, who was killed by motorcycles-riding armed robbers on Aug. 25 or four days before the carnage here.
Published reports said Maj. Resurreccion and some subordinates aboard a patrol car responded to a flash report that armed men robbed and killed a money lender on the border of Carmen and this town minutes earlier.
A shootout ensued between the responding law enforcers and the armed robbers, leaving Maj. Resurrecion killed.
According to unconfirmed information, Resurrecion’s subordinates suspected the robbers as Moro residents of this town, and that they were enraged over seeing their lady official fatally shot repeatedly by the attackers.
But residents here said the police reprisal was “mistaken” because all the massacre victims were farmers. (AGM)