THE Philippine National Police on Monday vowed to conduct an impartial investigation of the Oct. 28 shootout in which the mayor of Saudi Ampatuan town and nine bodyguards were killed, after relatives of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom accused the authorities of a rubout.
“The police who are involved are now undergoing investigation,” PNP spokesman Sr. Supt. Dionisio Carlos told radio dzMM.
“Such allegations, suspicions should be formally submitted as observations to bolster our ongoing investigation on the possible liabilities of the policemen,” Carlos added.
Citing initial police reports, Carlos said that anti-narcotics agents had set up a checkpoint at 4:30 a.m. Friday in Barangay Bulatukan, in Makilala, North Cotabato, on the basis of a “very reliable” source that Mayor Dimaukom’s group would be transporting illegal drugs.
Police said they fired only when Dimaukom’s bodyguards opened fire.
Dimaukom and his men were declared dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
But relatives of the mayor cast doubt on the police version of events, saying that most fatalities suffered gunshot wounds to the head, and only six firearms—mostly handguns—were collected from the suspects, contradicting the police claim that the group was heavily armed.
Maguindanao Rep. Dodong Mangudadatu also questioned police claims, saying that Dimaukom’s car was parked properly, contrary to versions that there was a shootout.
Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., spokesman for the PNP Regional Office in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the deaths of Dimaukom and his bodyguards were the result of a legitimate encounter, with police firing back in self-defense.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu urged Dimaukom’s constituents to remain calm as they wait for the official police report on his death and refrain from speculating on the incident.
“We should avoid fomenting animosity towards the PNP amid talks spreading ... [that Dimaukom and his companions] were intentionally killed by policemen. We should talk and react based on reason, not based on emotion,” Mangudadatu said.
Dimaukom, the mayor of Saudi Ampatuan, along with his nine bodyguards was killed after being implicated as one of more than 150 local government officials, judges and police identified by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year as being involved in the illegal drug trade.
Dimaukom made a name for himself by funding the construction of a pink mosque in Saudi Ampatuan in a plea for peace in the town which has been wracked by violence.
The mayor earlier met with Duterte, saying that he was not involved in the drug trade and was supportive of Duterte’s campaign.
“Our defense is the truth. If you are not guilty, why should you be afraid?” Dimaukom told the New York Times.
Since taking office in early June, the President has waged a bloody war on drug dealers and users, resulting in the deaths of more than 3,000 drug suspects allegedly at the hands of police. Police said more than half of the deaths were a result of vigilante killings.
Also on Monday, a top Malaysian official said his country would not adopt the extreme methods employed by Duterte to curb the drug menace.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who visited Davao last Saturday to meet with Duterte, said that while the government wants to reduce drug trafficking, it does not share the President’s hardline approach.
“We respect their [the Philippines government] methods, but it is only suited to their country,” the Malaysian official told the Malay Mail.
“Malaysia will use its own way, in order to enforce existing laws,” Ahmad Zahid said.
Accompanying Hamidi in his visit to Davao City was Malaysian Speaker of Parliament Pandikar Amin Mulia.
Communications Secretary Martin Andanar noted that Duterte’s meet was purely a “private meeting without notetakers.”
Duterte is set to make an official visit to Malaysia from Nov. 9 to 10, where he is expected to discuss piracy with Prime Minister Najib Razak.
“I am going to talk to Malaysia. I am going there to complete the tour because those are the countries that really matter to me. Malaysia because of the Malacca Strait because we have this piracy going on every now and then. It puts to shame everybody,” Duterte said in a late night press briefing at Davao City.
Duterte said he is looking forward to his talk with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and again with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to fight attacks around the Malacca Strait, the new piracy hotspot.
Duterte hinted he will adopt a hardline stance in dealing with piracy similar to the way he has been dealing with illegal drugs.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.