By Ali G. Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – The assassins of a highway patrol group (HPG) officer could be among remnants of extremist elements in Lanao region, grieving relatives revealed on Wednesday as they refuted initial news reports that rido or clannish feud was likely the motive behind the tragic incident.
“We are publicly announcing that we have no rido and none of us have taken the life of any person,” lawyer Udtog Tago, elder brother of slain Police Major Omar Tago, averred in a bold post on Facebook amid news reports that attributed the ‘brutal’ killing to possible clannish vendetta.
Lawyer Tago, serving as regular provincial election officer in Maguindanao for years, pointed out that “the way” his brother “was killed brutally, mercilessly, with multiple bullets manifest(ed) anger and a character of an extremist so angry with an officer of the PNP/AFP.”
The slain officer was attending the fourth day wake of a dead relative in barangay Pagalungan, Sultan Dumalundong
in Lanao del Sur alongside two companions on Monday, January 31, when five youngsters among the crowd pulled out guns and fired at least five bullets at him, the lawyer sibling told the Philippine Muslim Today news by phone on Wednesday.
The unidentified assailants did the same to Tago’s companions: Kanor Rascal, who was killed on the spot and; Adam Diringin, who sustained injuries and was fighting for life under medical treatment, reports said.
The attackers used caliber .45 pistols as indicated in several empty shells scattered at the scene, reports said.
Maj. Tago, incumbent HPG head for Lanao del Sur, was brought to hospital but succumbed to fatal injuries mostly in the abdomen, the elder sibling said.
Government authorities led by Brig. Gen. Eden Ugale, police regional director for the Bngsamoro autonomous region, have condemned the attack, and vowed to pursue the assailants.
“We are still establishing the motive, the fact that he (Tago) went there for family affairs” to mourn the passing of a relative, Gen. Ugale was quoted as saying.
Ugale said investigators have already gathered the identities of the assailants with the help of witnesses also among the crowd.
He initially classified the incident as “not work-related,” even as earlier published reports hinted a rido or family feud as a possible motive in the incident.
But lawyer Tago disputed the theory, saying their family has never been involved in rido for ages, citing the fact that their 90-year old father still lives without any rancor of blood debt.
Maj. Tago, 48, had served as municipal police chief in Talakag, Bukidnon and Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte before joining the HPG, and had never been involved in personal feud, 63-year old lawyer Tago said.
Citing field information, lawyer Tago said the assailants fled towards the direction of the mountains of Lumbatan town in Lanao del Sur.
Sultan Dumalundong and Lumbatan are adjacent to Butig town, the original base of Wahhabi militants espousing the extreme ideologies of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Moderate Muslim theologians say Wahhabi militants consider all people, regardless of religion, associated with non-Islamic governments as “munafiq” or disbelievers worthy of killing.
Lawyer Tago said there were witnesses who saw his brother’s killers escaping aboard motorcycles bearing “black signs.” ISIS militants usually banner dark signs including a black flag. (AGM)