Lanao mayor held in gun case freed
President’s adviser assures military, police Pantar mayor will cooperate in probe
ILIGAN CITY— A town mayor in Lanao del Norte was freed on Tuesday after an adviser to President Duterte intervened. The Inquirer obtained documents showing how Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers and Muslim Concerns Abdullah Mama-o wrote Maj. Gen. Roseller Murillo, commander of the military’s 1st Infantry Division, asking to take custody of Pantar town Mayor Jabar Tago.
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 at the behest 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 seek custody of Pantar Mayor Jabar Tago and two of the mayor’s relatives.
They were among five people arrested in a raid on Tago’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 for 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 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 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 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, au- thorities recovered in Tago’s office 15 assorted rifles and handguns, including a locally made replica of a .50-caliber 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 intelligence report claimed 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 campaign.
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.
RUINS Structures at Boracay West Cove Resort are demolished as the government undertakes a six-month environmental rehabilitation of Boracay Island.—
FIREARMS CACHE Soldiers inspect high-powered firearms and bullets recovered after a raid on a satellite office of Mayor Jabar Tago of Pantar, Lanao del Norte province.—