By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY, Jan. 19 – The League of Bangsamoro Organizations (LBO) will stage on Jan. 23 an indignation rally for justice for the victims of what it decried as “massacre” in Barangay Gokotan, Pikit, North Cotabato.
The rally cum protest caravan will start with an assembly at Barangay Salimbao in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao of some 100 vehicles that will travel to Pikit town proper and proceed to the “massacre” site, according to a statement from LBO spokesman Emran Mohammad.
The LBO, through its Committee on Unity, Peace and Reconciliation chaired by Mahdie Amella, planned the protest move to seek “justice for the massacre victims especially the civilians including (a) minor” last December 29, the LBO statement said.
There were five fatalities and five wounded, including four police elements, at the controversial incident, according to published reports. Four of those killed were identified as Badrudin Masulot Dalid, Arbaya Dalid Panizares (a female), Asraf Dalid Masulot, and Bunta Kabantu.
Initial reports, which went viral in the social media, showed Police Brig. Gen. Alexander Tagum, new police director for Central Mindanao, leading authorities in inspecting an arsenal of firearms and some 440 motorcycles purportedly recovered from a warehouse adjacent to the scene.
An independent probe was conducted on the incident by the groups of MILF-AHJAG Chair Anwar Alamada and Dave Junco of the GPH-CCCH, who initially met Gen. Tagum, North Cotabato Provincial Police Director Henry Villar and Col. Jovencio Gonzales, chief of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, alongside Pikit town Mayor Sumulong Sultan.
Relatives of civilian fatalities took to the social media their complaints, even as a female kin spoke in a video clip to denounce alleged foul acts including purported intrusions of raiding security forces on residences near the targeted warehouse.
They claimed that the warehouse was owned by a legitimate businesswoman long granted a business permit by the Pikit local government unit, particularly Mayor Sultan.
The raiding elements spared some 100 remaining motorcycles in the warehouse when Mayor Sumulong arrived at the scene on Dec. 29, complaining relatives averred.
On January 7, Colonels Villar and Gonzales held a press conference in Kidapawan City to debunk insinuations about foul plays or “rubout” in the law enforcement operation, which was mainly meant against the group of Joel Manampan alias Maula Manampan long wanted for organized crimes including carjacking.
Speakers at the press conference insisted that the raiding composite team was fired upon first by Satar Kabunto alias Expander and Manampan, prompting the raiders to fire back in the trade of bullets that lasted for about three hours. At the height of the fighting, Manampanan fled the scene, authorities said.
Police Lt. Col. Ruben Ramos, provincial chief of the PNP-Highway Patrol Group, attended the press briefing, saying that about 20 of the recovered 400 motorcycles were confirmed carjacked after their owners showed up to the police provincial headquarters with pertinent documents of their ownership over the stolen units.
Two motorcycle owners from Kidapawan City and Tulunan, North Cotabato also appeared at the news conference to reveal that their motorcycles were forcibly taken from them by gun-wielding suspects in 2019 and 2020.
The press conference did not touch on allegations that some of the raiding forces trespassed on nearby homes where valuables, including jewelry, cash and laptops were reportedly lost. (AGM)