Police operatives arrested over the weekend two of the four alleged suspects in the bomb explosion beside a Catholic church in Koronadal City last April 29 that left two persons injured.
Chief Supt. Marcelo Morales, Region 12 police director, said suspects Sukarno Paidumama alias “Karno Uttoc,” 28, and Alihan Dimasangkay Adtog, 31, were nabbed in an anti-drug operation at around 12:30 p.m. in Purok Kings, Barangay General Paulino Santos in Koronadal City.
The two were presented to the media in a press conference in Koronadal City late Sunday afternoon.
Morales said joint elements from the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office and the Koronadal City police station launched the buy-bust following confirmation of the presence of Paidumama in the area.
He said the operation was backed by personnel from the Regional Highway Patrol Unit-12 and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency-12.
The police official said the suspects were arrested after selling a sachet of suspected metamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu to a police officer who posed as a buyer.
Operatives also recovered two packs of shabu weighing about two grams, a fragmentation grenade, a caliber 45 handgun with seven live bullets and a suspected stolen motorcycle.
Morales said Paidumama is a primary suspect in the noontime bomb explosion beside the Christ the King Cathedral along Rizal Street and the foiled bomb attack at the 747 convenience store in General Santos Drive, Koronadal City.
He said the suspect, who hails from Barangay Bulod of Sultan sa Barongis town in Maguindanao, was the one who planted the bomb at a tricycle parked near the side entrance of the church.
The suspect’s identity was established based on accounts from witnesses and footages of security cameras installed near the scene of explosion, he said.
Citing intelligence reports, Morales said Paidumama are allegedly connected with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and a son-in-law of slain notorious kidnap gang leader Alonto Tahir.
He said Paidumama and Adtog were part of a drug syndicate based in Maguindanao and a carnapping group operating in South Cotabato and the neighboring areas.
The group’s leader, Ibrahim Lucas, was arrested early last month along with another cohort in an entrapment operation in Barangay Zone 4 in Koronadal City.
“The bombing appeared to be a tactic to divert the attention of our operatives and give them a chance to rescue their leader (Lucas) from the detention facility of the Koronadal City police station,” Morales said.
Senior Supt. Nestor Salcedo, South Cotabato police director, said the plan failed as they were already tipped off by an informant a week before. With the arrest of the suspects, he said they consider the case as closed but noted that the manhunt against the other suspects will continue.
The Koronadal City police station had filed multiple charges against Paidumama and three other suspects before the city prosecutor’s office in connection with the April 29 attack.
Meantime, Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel turned over to local police operatives and their assets the PHP100,000 reward earlier offered by the local government for the arrest of the suspects.
The mayor announced an additional reward of PHP100,000 for any information that would facilitate the arrest of the remaining suspects. (By Alejandro Saludo, Philippine News Agency)