By Martin Sadongdong and Aaron Recuenco
A man linked to the deadly blast in Cotabato City on New Year’s Eve has surrendered to authorities after the Philippine National Police (PNP) released his photo in public, a police official confirmed Tuesday.
Salipudin Pasandalan, 56, a native of Maguindanao and presently residing in Cotabato City, surrendered to authorities January 6, and was immediately placed under police custody, according to Chief Superintendent Eliseo Rasco, regional director of Soccsksargen Police Regional Office (PRO-12).
Rasco said Pasandalan allegedly served as a look-out in the bombing incident which occurred in front of the South Seas Mall in Poblacion, Cotabato on December 31.
Meanwhile, the primary suspect who placed a second improvised explosive device at the second floor of the mall, is still being identified.
“Sila ay halos nakitang magkasama sa parking area, sa comfort room sa second floor at sa lotto outlet bago ilagay ‘yung IED [improvised explosive device] (They were seen almost together in the parking area, in the comfort room at the second floor and in a lotto outlet before the IED was placed there),” said Rasco, who was in Camp Crame, Quezon City for a command conference.
Rasco said Pasandalan denied his involvement in the incident and refused to talk to police as he was accompanied by two lawyers.
“The reason kung bakit sumurrender ay kasi raw nakita niya ‘yung picture niya sa TV kaya natakot siya pati ang mga kamag-anak niya. Sinurrender siya ng mga relatives niya (The reason why he surrendered because he saw his picture on the television so he and his relatives got afraid. He was surrendered by his relatives),” he said.
“Accordingly, madalas lang siyang mamasyal sa mall (he just frequently visits the mall),” he added.
Rasco revealed that the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) South Seas is currently looking at the involvement of at least eight personalities in the bombing incident.
He pointed out that they are still investigating if Pasandalan is part of any local threat group. The PNP and the military earlier claimed that the suspects behind the blast might belong to Islamic State (ISIS)-affiliated terrorist groups since the signature of the IEDs found at the crime scene were similar to what they have been using.
Four possible motives behind the attack were also raised by Rasco: an alleged retaliation by the terror groups, politics, terror attack, and extortion by communist rebels.
“May binabanggit ang Army na pwedeng retaliation dahil noong December 27, may naka-encounter silang BIFF [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters]. May pitong namatay and accordingly, isa doon ay kapatid ng… Second is intense political rivalry sa Cotabato City (The Army has been saying that it might be because of a retaliation because they encountered suspected BIFF. Seven suspects died and acccordingly, one of them is a relative of [the leader]. The second is intense political rivalry),” he explained.
“The third motive is the participation of the Dawlah Islamiyah Group based on the bomb signature used, and fourth motive is the alleged extortion of communist rebels to the management of South Seas Mall and other nearby establishments,” he continued.
Rasco said they are now preparing to file double murder and multiple frustrated charges against the suspects.
The deadly bombing incident claimed the lives of two people while 34 others were hurt.