COTABATO CITY – A former TV news network reporter-turned-human human rights worker was shot dead alongside a “habal-habal” driver by still unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen in an ambush in this city last Wednesday night.
The fatalities were Archad Ayao, 28, worker of the Bangsamoro Regional Human Rights Commission (BRHRC) here, and Pio Orteza, 42, a “habal-habal” (motorbike for hire) driver. Both were residents of this city.
Ayao and Orteza sustained bullet wounds in their heads, prompting investigators to believe that the attackers were expert gunmen possibly commissioned to stage the ambush.
A report from Major Ramil Villagracia, chief of the police station 2 here, said Ayaw was back-riding in the motorbike driven by Orteza traversing along Don Ramon Rabago Avenue, particularly in front of Cotabato City Engineering District Office, when fired upon from behind by the unidentified gunmen at 6:10 p.m.
Responding elements from police station 2, located some 500 meters away from the ambush site, rushed the victims to hospital. But attending physicians pronounced them dead on arrival.
Friends and relatives believed had something to do with Ayao’s work as investigator of BRHRC.
Col. Michael Lebanan of the Cotabato City police office has urged relatives to cooperate with investigators so as to unearth the identities of the attackers and the attack mastermind.
Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) member Laisa Alamia, a former executive secretary of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), was shocked about Ayao’s killing.
“Unbelievable! Another senseless death! I grieve, I grieve, I grieve. May Allah forgive all your sins and open the doors of Jannah (paradise) to you, my friend. To your family, friends and loved ones, may Allah grant you peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts,” Alamia said in her Facebook page about Ayao’s killing.
“May justice be served, if not in this world, then in the hereafter,” said Alamia, a human rights lawyer and a former head of the BRCHRC.
Ayao served as reporter of the ABS-CBN news branch here and a member of the Kampilan Press Corps before joining the BRHRC, the human rights body of the defunct ARMM and the succeeding Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
After resigning from media works, Ayao had been chartering in his daily transport needs the “habal-habal” services of Orteza.
Orteza was also a former driver in the Bureau of Public Information (BPI) of the defunct ARMM.
Officials and members of BPI and the Kampilan Press Corps, both outfits once headed by this writer, have demanded justice in the Wednesday killing, the latest in a spate of crimes perpetrated by motorbike-riding in tandem in this city. (Ali G. Macabalang)