POLICE Regional Office 12 director, Chief Superintendent Eliseo T. Rasco yesterday announced the filing of criminal charges against two suspects in the New Year’s Eve bombing of a shopping mall in Cotabato City which killed two persons and injured 34 others.
In a report to Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde, the Central Mindanao police director identified those charged on Wednesday with two counts of murder and 34 counts of frustrated murder as Salipudin Lauban Pasandalan and one ‘Saed Nur Kasim.’
The 56-year old Pasandalan, a resident of Upper Capiton, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao has been placed under arrest by the Special Investigation Task Group Southseas after he surrendered to clear his name this week.
The suspect yielded to police authorities after he and his relatives saw television reports identifying him as a probable bomber, Rasco said. The official said that Pasandalan denied any involvement in the attack although they have circumstantial evidence that the suspect was seen with the backpack-carrying ‘Saed Nur Kasim’ who was believed to have planted the powerful improvised explosive device.
The suspect was reportedly seen in a comfort room and a lottery outlet with the suspected bomber himself. Rasco said that the suspected bomber, believed to be a resident of Dalican, Datu Odin Sinsuat town is still being hunted as of press time.
Rasco said that the multiple criminal charges were filed on Wednesday afternoon by the SITG Southseas before the office of Prosecutor Anwar U. Masacal of the Cotabato City Prosecutor’s Office.
In their complaint sheet, police said that the suspects planted the IED in front of the South Seas Mall about 1:49 in the afternoon of December 31, 2018. The ensuing explosion killed two innocent persons and injured 34 others, some of them kids.
The bombing is believed to be either the handiwork of a terror group or supporters of rival politicians in the area.
Last week, the Central Mindanao police director released the photos of the two suspects screen-grabbed from CCTV camera recordings of the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City moments before the deadly explosion.
One of the suspects was caught leaving the improvised explosive device at the mall while the other served as a ‘lookout.’
The bomb carrier was seen wearing a blue t-shirt and carried a backpack while the ‘lookout’ sported a green shirt. Police released the pictures of the two lifted from the CCTV footage hoping that the public can give them information that would lead to the capture of the bombers.
A P500,000 reward has been offered by the Cotabato City local government for the capture of the suspects.
Security officials maintained that the blast in Cotabato City was the handiwork of a breakaway faction of a secessionist group based only in Mindanao and whose motive is to retaliate against ongoing military offensive against them which have caused them major losses.
Police are eyeing an ISIS-inspired terror group in the bombing of the South Seas Mall in Cotabato City. “Most probably, an ISIS-inspired local terror group was behind the attack,” said PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Benigno B. Durana Jr. said without elaborating.