MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato, December 26, 2016 (PNA) — The grenade attack outside the Catholic church here on Christmas eve that left 17 injured was drug-related, police officials told President Rodrigo Duterte during a security briefing here on Christmas day.
Midsayap town police director Superintendent Bernard Tayong said several witnesses have come forward to provide information about the suspects seen leaving the blast site shortly before the incident.
“It was drug-related. We have been receiving threats from supporters of drug syndicates operating in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato,” Tayong told reporters after the briefing with the President.
Duterte was also told that the attack was not meant for the church but for the police, which explains why the explosive was lobbed under the parked police patrol car.
Senior Police Officer Johnny Caballero, team leader of the police unit securing the Christmas Eve Mass churchgoers, was among those injured. He was near the police car where the grenade exploded.
Midsayap Mayor Romeo Arania said if the target was the Church or civilians, the explosive would have been tossed in the Church compound or public markets, bus terminals, or town plaza.
“That is the risk facing our law enforcers,” Arania told reporters.
Tayong said the police have been successful in their anti-drug operation the past month and have arrested several drug personalities and members of drug syndicates.
Several big sachets of shabu and a dozen high powered firearms, including mortars and cal. 50 machine guns, were seized in a big police-military operation in the village of Tugal in Midsayap.
The target of the anti-drug operation was village chair Renz Tukaran, also known as “Commander Renz,” who managed to elude arrest.
Two of his followers were arrested, however.
Police said Tukaran had vowed to avenge the crippling of his multi-million peso illegal drug trade in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.
President Duterte went to Midsayap to visit the blast victims on Christmas Day. (Edwin O. Fernandez/PNA)