Cops clueless on deaths of suspected Visayan drug couriers
John Unson ( - January 4, 2016 - 10:45pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Investigators are still facing a blank wall on the deaths of four suspected Visayan drug couriers from Bukidnon, murdered gangland style in Northern Kabuntalan town before the New Year holiday.

Senior Superintendent Raul Supiter, director of the Cotabato City police, on Tuesday said policemen recovered the bloated cadavers of the four men at portions of the downstream channel of the Rio Grande de Mindanao, at the city’s northern border with Maguindanao province, two days after the incident.

Supiter identified the fatalities as Raul Cervantes, 40, Noel Soriano Rolos, 32, Nolan Clark Chan Tero, 30, and Adonis Robles, 40, based on identification papers and photos presented by relatives from Bukidnon.

A companion of the victims, Vincent Catanduanes, survived to tell the tale, but was so reluctant to tell probers the real purpose of their coming over to Northern Kabuntalan.

He only revealed they were to meet a group there, but refused to elaborate.

The Rio Grande de Mindanao connects to swamps and smaller rivers straddling through the adjoining Kabuntalan and Northern Kabuntalan towns, both in the first district of Maguindanao.

The wounded Catanduanes was rescued by barangay officials who found him struggling to stay afloat in a smaller river in Pigcawayan town in the first district of North Cotabato.

Local officials said they were attacked by rifle-wielding men and were thrown into river flowing downstream to the western side of Cotabato City.

Catanduanes said he survived by pretending he was killed instantly in the initial burst of automatic gunfire.

Catanduanes told the Pigcawayan municipal police he and his companions from Bukidnon were to meet a group in Northern Kabuntalan, but were held captive instead by armed men in one of the barangays there.

Local officials, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, said the five men from Bukidnon were to buy P1 million worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu) from a contact holding out at the swampy border of the neighboring Kabuntalan and Northern Kabuntalan towns.

“There is a story they were killed for their money and motorcycles,” said one of the local officials.

A highly-placed source, who requested anonymity, said there is also a story spreading around that the drug deal between the Visayan men and their ethnic Maguindanaon contacts went awry and resulted into a shootout.

“But the shootout theory seemed so unlikely. Those men from Bukidnon would not carry guns riding motorcycles all the way from Bukidnon, passing through police and Army checkpoints,” said the source.

The provincial police office is now investigating on the incident on order of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairman of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council.

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