Investigators said Tuesday a drug syndicate could have been behind the February 17 ambush on Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Alonto Adiong Jr. and his security convoy, as the Philippine National Police announced they are focusing on seven suspects in the attack that left four men dead.
Meanwhile, police have identified the registered owner of the getaway vehicle used in the ambush of Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda and five others in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, the PNP said.
Also, the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) condemned the recent attacks against the elected local government officials, calling for the speedy administration of justice for the victims.
ULAP president and Quirino Governor Dax Cua denounced the crimes, saying these have no place in a democratic country.
He also urged the government to swiftly act to apprehend the perpetrators to reassure the public that the rule of law continues to apply in the country.
“These acts of impunity have no place in a democracy. Immediate action from the government is needed to assure our countrymen that the rule of law still prevails in our society,” Cua said.
GMA Regional TV One Mindanao reported that apart from being suspected syndicate members, the group shot Adiong’s convoy “possibly due to his campaign against illegal drugs,” the regional police added.
Last Friday, authorities destroyed P5 million worth of marijuana in a plantation in Maguing town, Lanao del Sur. On the same day, unidentified gunmen attacked the governor’s convoy in Kalilangan, Bukidnon, and killed four of Adiong’s companions. The fatalities were identified as Police Staff Sergeant Mohammad Jurai Mipanga Adiong, 40; Police Corporal Johanie Lawi Sumandar, 39; Police Corporal Jalil Ampuan Cosain, 40, and a driver identified only as Kobi.
Gov. Adiong and two of his staff were hurt in the attack.
In the Alameda case, despite the chassis and engine numbers of the getaway vehicle having been tampered with, the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) was able to lift them, PNP spokesperson Police Col. Jean Fajardo said.
“We already coordinated with the [Land Transportation Office]. Wealready have the name of the registered owner,” Fajardo said in an interview on CNN Philippines—but emphasized that authorities are still not sure if the listed owner was the current possessor of the vehicle.
The Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) is now coordinating with the local police to find the registered owner, she added.
The getaway vehicle was found burned in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya.
On Sunday, Alameda and five others —Alexander Agustin Delos Angeles, Alvin Dela Cruz Abel, Abraham Dela Cruz Ramos, John Duane Banag Almeda, and Ismael Nanay—were killed when their van was ambushed by gunmen in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya.
The victims were aboard a van on the way to Manila when about six suspects fired at them, according to reports.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos vowed to the victims’ families the police would focus on the case and that justice would be served.
“This incident is saddening and infuriating. Criminals are becoming brazen and have no second thoughts about committing these crimes,” he said in a statement.
With reports that the ambushers were wearing police uniforms, Abalos ordered an investigation and a crackdown on the illegal sale of PNP uniforms.
He also called for stricter policies on the issuance of guns and licenses to own and carry firearms outside of a residence.
Meanwhile, ULAP said in a statement: “It is deeply concerning and reprehensible that an individual or a group would attempt to harm an elected representative of the people who has a duty to serve and protect the community. Such an act goes against democracy, rule of law, and basic human decency.”
“Violence and intimidation have no place in a civilized society and any attempt to use force to silence or harm public officials is a threat to the safety and security of all citizens,” the group added.
The attack that killed Alameda, who was on his third term and was being groomed to run for mayor in the next elections, happened three days after the assassination attempt on Gov. Adiong Jr.
ULAP called on authorities to “utilize all legal means available to pursue and bring the perpetrators to the scales of Lady Justice.”
“Such a remorseless act of violence is abominable and must not be perpetuated. We must stand together to condemn such acts and support efforts to ensure the safety of our public officials and the people they serve,” it added.
Cua added that ULAP would conduct a dialogue with its members and the national government “so that these crimes can be avoided in the future.”