GANASSI, Lanao del Sur (MindaNews / 14 May) – Eight people were wounded in three separate shooting incidents that could have been perpetrated by followers of rival political clans in this town afternoon of election day.
The military said among the victims were four children from out of town who were hit in the crossfire as the family vehicle was passing through.
Both the military and the police reported that the first incident occurred around 4 p.m. in Barangay Taliogon, when a still unidentified gunman shot 20-year-old Maki Macapodi in Barangay Taliogon, a mountainous village some seven kilometers away from the poblacion.
Maki is related to incumbent Mayor Al-Rashid Macapodi, who is running for vice mayor.
Thirty minutes later, a firefight erupted in the town center involving passengers of a white Toyota pickup and a Toyota Revo, said an eyewitness who was about 20 meters away from the shooting scene.
On the pickup truck was the municipal treasurer of neighboring Pualas town, Saipoden Balindong, brother of Amano Dianca Balindong, a mayoralty candidate in Ganassi opposing Hosni Macapodi, brother of incumbent Al-Rashid.
Capt. William Dagondon Jr., Ganassi police chief, said both the treasurer and driver Ali Matar, the only passengers in the pickup, were wounded in the leg.
Eyewitness Bambara Dipatuan said a paramilitary who rode in the Revo was also wounded. There were two other passengers in the Revo who joined the fight but were not injured, he added.
Dipatuan said he and a few others were just sitting by a waiting shed at a junction when the two vehicles met by the highway, then the passengers started shooting at each other. “It took only maybe a minute or a little longer, then they stopped shooting when they were already injured,” he added.
Dagondon said that they were still investigating the first shooting incident in Taliogon when they heard the gunshots in the poblacion, so they rushed to the scene.
“When we got there, we saw only the pickup truck peppered with bullets, but there were no more passengers. We found the municipal treasurer and his driver hiding in a house maybe 500 meters away,” he added.
Dagondon said he was not sure if the two incidents were election related because from the start of the campaign period until the last day, “there was no tension between the two groups at all.”
But 1Lt. Jose Ganza II, operations officer of the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion, said the second incident was a retaliation from the Macapodi camp against the Balindongs.
Unfortunately, the Army officer said, passersby were hit in the crossfire.
The Guro family, he said, were riding their Toyota Fortuner coming from Lumbaca-Unayan municipality on their way to Marawi City passing through Ganassi.
On board were the parents, the grandfather, and eight children aged 2 to 17.
Upon hearing the gunshots, they turned around, but were apparently suspected by one party to be with the other group and was thus chased and fired upon, Ganza said.
They were able to get away, but the four boys at the back seat were hit, he added.
Ganza said they were still in Taliogon looking into the first shooting incident when the Guro family’s Fortuner was rushing on its way back. “We stopped them, saw the parents crying, and noticed the wounded children,” he added.
Ganza said he had a dilemma what to do – to go to the poblacion to respond to the second shooting incident, or attend to the wounded kids. “In the end, I opted to stay with the family and escorted them to the hospital in Binidayan (a neighboring town). We needed to attend to the boys because they were already pale and could die if we leave them behind,” he said.
The officer said the children’s grandfather is brother of Mayor Somerado Guro of Lumbaca-Unayan.
The mother of the wounded children, he said, is related to another influential Maranao family – Sultan Usman Sarangani Sr., of Madalum municipality.