Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced Friday that three members of the Maute Terrorist Group, who allegedly took part in the Davao City blast last Sept. 2, are now under custody of authorities.
In a press briefing, the DND chief said the three were arrested in a mobile checkpoint by joint elements of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police last Oct. 4 in Cotabato City.
The three were identified as TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendel Apostol Facturan, and Musali Mustapha, members of the Maute Group.
All three were arrested after attempting to evade the checkpoint on board a motorcycle with no license plate, Lorenzana said.
â€œWe have recovered solid pieces of evidence showing that they are indeed the terrorists who bombed Davao City on September 2,â€ he stressed,
Confiscated from the suspects were various components for improvised explosive devices, a sub-machine gun, a .45 caliber pistol, their motorcycle, and various cellular phones.
Based on initial investigations and debriefing, it was found that Macabalang detonated the bomb that was placed in position by Facturan.
Mustapha, meanwhile, took a video of the incident using his cellular phone.
The said video, along with the other photos of the incident were recovered from the cellular phones and were supposed to be used for propaganda.
A 20-second propaganda video showing Facturan and a photo showing a bomb manual were also recovered from the suspects.
â€œThere are indications that the Maute Group is trying to align themselves with the ISIS as seen in the recovered video. We have also established their link with the ASG as they revealed their intention to disrupt the governmentâ€™s massive military operations in Sulu,â€ said Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Ano.
The Maute Groupâ€™s plan to bomb Davao City was conceived more or less two weeks before the actual incident.
Accordingly, the plan was conceptualized to disrupt and divert the governmentâ€™s massive military operations in Sulu that started in July and in Central Mindanao that started in August.
Moreover, the attack was conducted in retaliation for the heavy casualties suffered by the terror group in Butig, Lanao Del Sur last February.
The operations in August also resulted in the capture of eight Maute members in a checkpoint on Aug. 22. The arrested members later bolted out of prison on Aug. 27.
Further investigations also revealed that there were more or less 10 members of the Maute Group that participated in the Davao City bombing.
Aside from the three arrested suspects, it was found that another plan to use hand grenades was in play in case the original bomb failed to explode and to inflict more casualties.
Meanwhile, Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Cotabato City Police and elements from the 6th Infantry Division conducted a raid, backed by a search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court 12 Branch 13, on the residence of Teng Macabalang, father of TJ Macabalang.
The search was conducted at Barangay Rosary Height 6, Cotabato City at 2 a.m. Friday and resulted to the arrest of Macabalang and the recovery of numerous high-powered and short firearms, ammunition, and improvised explosive device components.
Macabalang and the confiscated pieces of evidence were brought to the local police office for proper documentation and disposition.
â€œThe AFP and the PNP continue to conduct follow-up operations in pursuit of the remaining suspects and other members of the Maute Group in Cotabato City,â€ said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya.
He added that the AFP and the PNP have already informed President Rodrigo Duterte and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte on this major development.
â€œOnce again, your Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have shown their firm resolve and joint capabilities to stop this bunch of extremists,” Lorenzana said. (PNA)
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