MARAWI CITY. The ambush on August 17 was led by Mangombaya Hadji Mustapha, a.k.a. Kalamunggay, who is a notorious illegal logger with a more or less 60 to 80 armed followers.
In the1980's, Kalamunggay founded and led RIMORUNG, a group of bandits preying mostly on victims who travelled along the national road from Marawi City to Masiu, Lanao del Sur. He is wanted for involvement in several criminal cases filed in courts in Lanao del Sur, the most noted was the beheading of several tribal people from Bumbaran and Wao in Lanao del Sur, and in Talakag, Bukidnon. The cases, ranging from murder, robbery in band, arson and rape, are archived since most of the victims are afraid to pursue for fear of reprisals.
During the ambush, Kalamunggay acted it alone with his band, and was helped and aided only by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander Aleem Pangalian and his men after sensing the arrival of Army reinforcements.
According to an eyewitness, an hour before the ambush, Kalamunggay was seen talking with the team leader of the Civilian Volunteer Organization (CVO), Mustapha Mundir, after his cargoes of illegally cut logs loaded in several trucks were stopped in a checkpoint manned by Mundir at Bubong, Lanao del Sur, a 20-minute drive away from the ambush site.
The said witness overheard the two haggling, saying that Kalamunggay was asking Mundir to let his cargoes pass the detachment even with no legal papers allowing the transport of logs.
"Piray SOP a kayo aya,? (How much is the SOP for these logs?)," Kalamunggay asked Mundir who replied, saying its P20,000.00.
Sensing that Mundir would not changed his demand, the eyewitness saw Kalamunggay dialling his cellphones and asked, "Andakano? (Where are you?)"
A firefight ensued between the group of Mundir with his four CVO members and Kalamunggay with his 60 heavily armed followers which lasted for 15 minutes before the group of Kalamunggay retreated near Mulondo, Lanao del Sur.
By that time, a three-vehicle convoy of Philippine Army soldiers were passing along the national highway in Brgy. Ilian, Mulondo, Lanao del Sur. Unfortunately for the said convoy, they were fired upon by Kalamunggay and his band with the help of MILF fighters. "Akala kasi nila, hinahabol sila ng mga sundalo na nakasakay sa mga truck!"
The incident claimed the lives of 12 soldiers and the wounding of 11 CVOs and civilians.
But, what was unfortunate, was the seeming reluctance of the officials of the Philippine Army in Lanao del Sur led by Col. Rey Ardo, the 103rd Brigade Commander, to conduct relentless hot pursuit operations against the group of Kalamunggay who are still holed up in Brgy. Panayangan in Maguing, Lanao del Sur.
It is a sad reality that the practice of illegal logging remain unabated and worst, being done in cahoots with the Philippine Army based in Lanao del Sur.