Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Friday the arrest of three members of the Maute Group who are allegedly behind the bombing of a night market in Davao City last month that left 15 people dead.
At a press conference, Lorenzana said the three were nabbed on October 4 at a checkpoint by joint elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police in Cotabato City.
The suspects attempted to avoid the checkpoint onboard a motorcycle with no license plate.
“The three terrorists have direct participation on the September 2 Davao bombing,” Lorenzana told reporters.
He identified the suspects as:
- TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, the alleged triggerman who made the phone call that detonated the improvised explosive device;
- Wendel Apostol Facturan, alleged bomb courier who sat on the chair, put the backpack containing the IED in the market and
- Musali Mustapha, who took a phone video of the incident
Confiscated from them were materials for IED, a sub-machine gun, a cal .45 pistol, their motorcycle and cellular phones.
Authorities found on their cellular phones a 20-second video of the bombing itself, the preparation of the suspects, and a photo of a bomb manual.
Lorenzana said the plan to bomb Davao City was conceived more or less two weeks before the incident.
He said the motive was to disrupt and divert the government’s massive military operations in Sulu that started in July 2016 and in Central Mindanao that started in August 2016.
The bombing was also in retaliation for the heavy casualties suffered by the Maute Group in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
The operation of the government troops in August 2016 has resulted in the capture of eight Maute Group members at a checkpoint on August 22. The arrested members escaped prison on August 27.
Suspect's dad also nabbed
At the same time, Lorenzana said the father of one of the suspects – Teng Macabalang – was arrested by government security forces following a raid in their residence in Cotabato City.
The raid, backed by a search warrant, was conducted in Barangay Rosary Height 6, Cotabato City at 2 a.m. Friday.
Recovered were numerous high-powered and short firearms, ammunitions, and IED materials.
The Defense chief said Macabalang and the confiscated pieces of evidence were brought to the local police office for proper documentation and disposition.
Also at the briefing, Lorenzana said more or less 10 members of the Maute Group participated in the Davao bombing.
“We are withholding the name of the rest of the Maute Group involved in the Davao City bombing because the AFP and PNP are still conducting follow up operations to arrest the other identified members of the group,” he said.
Investigators found out that there was a plan to use hand grenades in case the original bomb would fail to explode and to inflict more casualties.
Lorenzana said their initial probe showed that the group has plans to execute a series of bombings in Maguindanao area and Davao City.
He said there are indications the Maute Group is trying to align themselves with the ISIS as seen in the videos on their cellphones.
“We have also established their link with the Abu Sayyaf group as they reveal their intention to disrupt the government’s massive military operations in Sulu,” he added.
Lorenzana said that while government troops are still hunting the other members of the group, the case is now considered close.
“We now consider the Davao bombing case closed,” he said.
The three underwent inquest proceedings before the Department of Justice earlier in the day.
State of National Emergency
At least 15 people were killed while 70 others were injured when an explosion rocked the Roxas Night Market last September 2.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Davao City during the bomb attack, had declared a state of national emergency on the account of lawless violence in Mindanao.
The Davao City government has offered a P3-million reward for information that may lead to the arrest of the suspect.
An initial investigation showed that the suspects used an improvised explosive device composed of 60mm and 81 mmmm mortar. Investigators said the IED was constructed in the same way as the one used in the explosion at the Ecoland Terminal, also in Davao.
Earlier reports have it that the suspect, wearing a mask, had a massage minutes before the bomb attack. The suspect had eight companions.
Nine people have already been charged with multiple murder and frustrated multiple murder in connection with the bombing. — RSJ, GMA News