AT LEAST five suspects have been identified in the killing of five Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents in Lanao del Sur, which authorities believed was a case of mistaken identity.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Chief Superintendent Benigno Durana Jr. said the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police regional office will be filing charges of multiple murder and frustrated murder against the suspects.
“Base sa investigation ng SITG (Special Investigation Task Group) meron na tayong mga suspects. I just talked with the RD (Regional Director) of PRO ARMM, there may be cases that will be filed against the suspects either today or tomorrow. We have identified the suspects and cases will be filed against them,” he said.
“Related pa rin sa drugs kasi mejo (parang) mistaken identity. Apparently kasi prior to that sometime in August may anti-illegal drugs operations that resulted in the death of one of the suspects so alam n’yo naman doon sa area na yan bawi bawi,” he added.
Durana said the suspects’ possible real targets were the members of the Provincial Drug Enforcement Unit (PDEU) who conducted the said operation, and not the PDEA agents.
Durana said the local police and PDEA have agreed that the National Bureau of Investigation will conduct the investigation on the possible malfeasance of the police officers during the incident.
“The PDEA and PNP have agreed so that it will not be suspected that we are going to whitewash it. Ang pagimbestiga on malfeasance ng mga pulis will be investigated by the NBI... Para lang maging impartial,” he said.
At least four police personnel were relieved and are now being investigated over their alleged lack of action while the PDEA agents were under attack.
Kenneth Tabulo, Kristine Mae Torlao, Lores Joy Amar, Binzo Dipolla and Diobel Pacinio were all killed when unidentified gunmen fired upon them while traversing Barangay Malna in Kapai town.
Two others were wounded in the incident.
Authorities said the victims were on board a van going towards Marawi City after attending a program for drug surrenderers in Tagoloan town, Lanao del Sur when they were ambushed. (SunStar Philippines)