Mayor held for guns released
Under Palace exec’s care
ILIGAN CITY—A mayor in Lanao del Norte province and four others, who were held by the military after a raid on the official’s office yielded firearms on Sunday, were released on Tuesday following the intercession of an adviser to President Duterte.
Documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers and Muslim Concerns Abdullah Mama-o had written
Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the military’s 1st Infantry Division, to entrust to him Pantar Mayor Jabar Tago and two of the mayor’s relatives.
They were among five people arrested in a raid on Jabar’s satellite office at the border of Punod and Sundiga villages in Pantar town on May 13.
“This shall serve as formal request that the foregoing parties be released under my custody while their case is being investigated,” Mama-o said in his May 14 letter to Murillo. The presidential adviser’s calling card was attached to the letter.
“I assure you they will cooperate with the military and the police should there be any investigation scheduled for their appearance. I am taking personal responsibility of their appearance for such investigation,” he said.
Tago and his companions were held at the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Brigade in this city before their release to Mama-o’s custody.
The raid took place while authorities were pursuing suspects in a series of gun attacks in the province during the election period for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan polls.
On May 8, resident Ali Omar, 36, was shot and killed at Barangay Adapon Ali in Baloi town. This was followed by another shooting incident on May 10 at Barangay Punod in Pantar that killed Alemoding Tawano, 25.
Authorities received reports claiming that the suspects had fled to Tago’s satellite office in Pantar.
When asked about the release of Tago’s group, Murillo said in a text message on Wednesday: “They were released because they could be detained only for 36 hours [in the absence of charges]. We will resort to the regular filing [of cases through the prosecutor’s office].”
Murillo did not reply when asked on Thursday about whether Mama-o’s letter had put pressure on authorities to release the mayor’s group. Mama-o wrote Murillo just a day after Tago and his companions were arrested.
On May 15, lawyer Nur Jaypha Bacaraman of the Public Attorney’s Office signed a turnover of custody acknowledgement receipt for Tago, his relatives Jameloding and Janoden Tago; Kiram Ampuan and
Nasrodin Hadji Ibrahim. The document was notarized by lawyer Rejoice Sobejano of Iligan City.
During the May 13 raid, authorities recovered in Tago’s office 15 assorted rifles and handguns, including a locally made replica of a .50 cal. Barret sniper’s rifle.
A brief exchange of gunfire with some of the suspects took place during the raid, said Col. Robert Dauz, commander of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade.
Dauz said their information showed Kiram was involved in the illegal drug trade in Metro Manila.
A source present during the negotiation for the release said Tago’s camp had claimed that the seized firearms would be eventually surrendered to the military and police as part of the local government’s disarmament.
Tago has been serving as mayor for the past four months after the Commission on Elections declared him the real winner in the 2016 polls.
He replaced Vice Mayor Hadji Rakim Alingan, who assumed office when Mayor Exchan Limbona was killed in an ambush on Dec. 29, 2016.
A raid by the Martial Law Special Action Group on Tago’s house in Cagayan de Oro City in July last year yielded several guns. The mayor, however, was not home during the raid at Barangay Bonbon.
With his arrest on Sunday, Tago became the second Lanao del Norte mayor arrested since the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.