PHILIPPINE National Police chief, General Debold M. Sinas yesterday said they are eyeing three possible motives behind an attack launched by some 50 heavily-armed members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Datu Piang, Maguindanao where they torched a police patrol vehicle after meeting heavy resistance from security forces on Thursday night.
Sinas briefed Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año of the developments on their ongoing investigation of the December 3 incident carried out by suspected members of the ISIS-inspired militant group operating in Mindanao.
Citing reports from Brigadier Gen. Samuel P. Rodriguez, director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region Police Regional Office, Sinas said regular business activity has returned to normal in the 2nd class municipality of Datu Piang since Thursday’s incident that momentarily disrupted regular activities.
At present, government reinforcements composed of 70 personnel from the PRO-BAR Regional Mobile Force Battalion-14 headed by Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Uy, one section of the 4th Special Action Battalion of the PNP Special Action Force led by Lieutenants Ian Rey Diolanto and Brent Allen Alde and soldiers from the Army’s 6th Infantry Battalion are stationed in Datu Piang to maintain peace and order and established normalcy in the area.
Sinas said all other nearby Municipal Police Stations in the province were also alerted to be on full guard against possible similar harassments on civilian communities.
The PNP chief said a Special Investigation Task Group is now closely putting together all facts and evidence to establish the circumstances surrounding these cases of attempted murder, arson, damage to property, indiscriminate firing, grave threats and intimidation.
Probers are also gathering the statements of witnesses for the filing of criminal charges against the suspects.
Sinas said that SITG probers are considering three possible motives behind the attack.
First is the political rivalry among local executives of Datu Piang, particularly between the mayor and vice mayor over certain political issues. Reports said that one of the protagonists allegedly hired the services of the gunmen to harass the municipality and discredit the other who has been criticized for the lack of development and progress of Datu Piang.
Rodriguez has identified Salahudin Hasan alias ‘Salah’ and Muhiden Animbang Indong alias ‘Commander Karialan’ as the leaders of about 50 men that stormed Datu Piang proper around 9:25 p.m. Thursday, set fire to a police vehicle and fired indiscriminately at the Sta. Teresita Catholic Church and a school building.
Aside from the minor damages, no casualties were reported in the incident.
Security forces battled the gunmen who tried but failed to overrun the local police station after harassing an Army detachment.
Initial reports said the armed men were believed to be affiliated with the Dawlah Islamiya and a splinter faction of the BIFF.
The fighting erupted shortly after the BIFF gunmen harassed the Charlie Company of the Army’s 6th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Kanguan past 11 p.m. Thursday in a reported effort to let the government know they are still a force to reckon with in Central Mindanao.
After soldiers repulsed the attackers, the gunmen retreated towards the municipal hall firing their guns at will, said Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, Major General Juvymax Uy.
The official said that prior to the incident, they received information from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front regarding the BIFF plan to attack targets in the area. The information prompted the local police, military and the civilian populace to go on alert.
The armed men later tried to assault the Datu Piang Municipal Police Station after torching a police vehicle but were forced to withdraw after policemen defended their facility and waited for the arrival of Army reinforcement, the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command reported . The AFP also denied reports that a school and a church were burned.
The AFP Western Mindanao Command headed by Lieutenant Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. and Sinas assured that the military and the police are on top of the situation in the area and are now investigating the incident.