(Graphics courtesy of Lanao del Sur PPO)

CAMP SK PENDATUN, Maguindanao Norte – Government forces killed during an operation Wednesday the alleged mastermind in the Feb. 17 ambush of Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr.

Col. Robert Daculan, Lanao del Sur police provincial director, said private armed group leader Oscar Tacmar Capal Gandawali was killed after he resisted arrest and briefly traded shots with a team of police and military personnel at about 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Injured were Army 5th Infantry Battalion (IB) personnel Staff Sgt. Michael Angelo Y. Virecio and village chairman Gamon Manonggiring of Barangay Pilimoknan in Maguing town where the operation was conducted.

Daculan said the team was about to serve eight warrants of arrest for murder and frustrated murder charges against Gandawali when the shootout broke out.

“Gandawali sensed the approaching lawmen and immediately opened fire, hitting Sgt. Virecio in the process and triggered a brief firefight,” Daculan said in a statement.

Gandawali’s companions scampered in different directions while the firefight was raging, he added.

Recovered from Gandawali’s safe house were firearms, ammunition, illegal drugs, and shabu paraphernalia.

Daclaun said Gandawali was tagged as the mastermind in the ambush of Governor Adiong Jr. in Maguing town on Feb. 17, which claimed the lives of the governor’s three police escorts and a driver.

Adiong was wounded in the ambush but has fully recovered.

Daculan said the suspect also masterminded the ambush slaying of five Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents in Kapai, Lanao del Sur in October 2018.

Likewise, Gandawali's group was linked to gun-for-hire operations, gunrunning, robbery, and the proliferation of illegal drugs in Lanao del Sur.  

"He (Gandawali) was also tagged as a financier and supporter of the Daesh-inspired local terrorist group," Daculan said.

Gandawali is listed by the police as the most wanted person in Lanao del Sur and the fourth most-wanted man in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

The neutralization of Gandawali came a month after Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, BARMM police regional director, directed the Lanao del Sur police to intensify efforts to arrest other suspects in the Adiong ambush.

To date, four suspects have been arrested, two were slain, and two firearms stolen from the slain police officers have been recovered. (PNA)