MNLF elated over DOJ’s action on Sema’s ambush PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 13:42

Officials of the Moro National Liberation Front scattered across Mindanao are thankful to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for having formed last week a special team to probe on the January 10 ambush in Cotabato City of their chairman, Datu Muslimin Sema.

Sema, the incumbent vice-mayor of Cotabato City, served as a three-term mayor before his election to the city’s second highest elective post in 2010. He also chairs the most dominant of three factions in the MNLF. One of these groups is led by Nur Misuari, governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao from 1996 to 2001.

According to MNLF leaders, political supporters of Sema were just as elated with the announcement last week by the DOJ that it has formed a three-member panel, comprised of Assistant State Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano and prosecution lawyers Gerard Gaerlan and Javee Laurence Bandong, to conduct the preliminary probe.

The spokesman of MNLF, Abdul Sahrin, said in a statement that they are glad that the DOJ has acted promptly on the criminal cases the Criminal and Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) filed against the alleged brains in the bungled ambush of Sema.

De Lima ordered the newly-formed panel “to file the appropriate information before the appropriate court if the evidence warrants.”

The DOJ’s action is based on a complaint filed February 6 by the CIDG against the alleged masterminds of the ambush.

Sema was on his way home from the city council when one of two men riding a motorcycle in tandem fired a customized M-16 assault rifle on his vehicle, hitting the vice-mayor in his right cheek and lower jaw.

Sema underwent medication at a hospital in Davao City and, after six days of confinement, returned to work.

One of Sema’s attackers, Zermin Abdullah, was killed by the vice-mayor’s security escorts. He wore a bullet-proof vest, but was hit in an unprotected area in his back, causing his death.

He and the driver of their get-away motorcycle were already about to escape, but Sema’s escorts managed to return fire, killing Abdullah.

Sources from the CIDG said Abdullah was an employee of the Office of Southern Cultural Communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, but was officially detailed to a local government unit of Cotabato City at the time he allegedly ambushed Sema.

Sahrin said they are to leave everything to the DOJ and the judiciary the prosecution of the alleged brains in the ambush.

The CIDG’s complaint sheet named the respondents as Japal Guiani, Jr., who is mayor of Cotabato City, Franches Cynthia Sayadi, who is the city administrator, and her spouse Omar Sayadi, city councilors Graham Dumama, and Adbdillah Lim, barangay chairman Amil Sula, and Police Inspector Noel Gutierrez.

Guiani and Sayadi were reported by radio stations in Cotabato City to have denied the accusations, asserting their innocence and readiness to respond to the charges through their lawyers.

Sayadi, who is the mayor’s younger sister, was also separately reported by a weekly newspaper in Cotabaton City, the Mindanao Cross, as having refuted the allegations against them.

Gutierrez was charged for keeping the mobile phone of the slain ambusher, ignoring orders by the CIDG for him to turn it over as vital evidence.

Gutierrez and several of his subordinates were the first to respond to the scene where the vice-mayor was shot.

Members of the Cotabato City police, whose names have been withheld for security reasons, have reportedly testified against Gutierrez.

There are persistent talks circulating in Mindanao stating that a policeman, SPO4 Leonardo Enggay, who was shot and seriously wounded in an attack at a national highway straddling Cotabato City more than a week ago, was one of those that attested to the irregularity allegedly done by Gutierrez.

Sahrin said the MNLF has trust and confidence on the DOJ.

Sahrin said it was, in fact, a collective decision of Sema’s relatives and the MNLF to file the cases against the seven respondents at the DOJ’s central office in Manila.

Manila, according to Sahrin, is a “neutral ground.” He did not elaborate, however.

“President Aquino can take the MNLF’s word. There will be no retaliations whatsoever. We have a peace pact with the Philippine government, the September 2, 1996 final GPH-MNLF peace accord. We will not do anything that can put that peace agreement in bad light,” Sahrin told reporters.

Some 20,000 supporters and relatives of Sema held last Saturday, February 25,  a grand “kanduli” which they capped with their prayers for the speedy resolution of his near-fatal ambush here last January 10.

The traditional kanduli is a centuries-old Moro practice both as thanksgiving and to signify success in any personal or community endeavors.

Organizers of the Kanduli, among them MNLF officials, said they embarked on the event as thanksgiving for Sema’s having survived an attempt to kill him.

Sema’s wife, Bai Sandra, who is the congressional representative of the first district of Maguindanao, said their supporters and relatives proposed the Kanduli as a venue for them to express their gratitude to the DOJ for acting promptly on the cases filed against the alleged masterminds on the plot to kill the vice-mayor

“But first and foremost we embarked on this activity to thank Allah for giving Vice-Mayor Sema a second lease of life,” Rep. Sema told reporters that covered the Kanduli.

The event was held at the gymnasium of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College. As the Kanduli was held, the surroundings of the gym was dotted with policemen and combatants of the 7th Marine Battalion as part of the security measures meant to ward off saboteurs.