Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said what happened at around 8:45 p.m. Friday was an encounter between troops manning a checkpoint and suspected gunmen inside a gray Nissan Patrol car.
Relatives confirmed that one of the slain men was Datu Hasheem Matalam, son of former Maguindanao Governor and long-time Pagalungan town mayor Norodin Matalam, and a resident of Barangay Layug. Also killed were Buton Bacocol, a resident of Matina, Pangi, Davao City.
Their bodies were immediately claimed by their relatives. One of the three unidentified victims was later identified as Abdullah Mamalumpong, a fugitive from the provincial jail in Amaas, North Cotabato.
Recovered from the scene are high-powered firearms consisting of an M-16 riffle, two M-653, one 1911 pistol, one riffle grenade, one hand grenade, three sachets of suspected shabu paraphernalia, cellphones and 15,000 pesos cash.
Brig. Gen. Alfredo Rosario, chief of the 602nd Infantry Brigade covering Maguindanao and North Cotabato, said reports reaching them indicate the men inside the car did not stop at the checkpoint but fired their guns at the troops instead.
“The troops manning the checkpoint tried to stop them for inspection but they opened fire first which led our men to fire back”, Rosario said in a telephone interview.
Rosario added that his men, especially the troops under 7th Infantry Battalion, are on red alert status because of the clashes the whole day on Friday from the factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) engaged in a rido (clan war).
“We will sustain our effort against the lawless groups, campaign on loose firearms and rido settlement,” Sobejana said.