CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY , Philippines – Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) officials on Sunday said they will not tolerate any wrongdoing committed by its members after one of them was tagged as the suspect in the shooting of a carpenter in Barangay Puerto on Friday, Feb. 15.

The suspect was identified by the Puerto police as Devie Moralde, 41, married, and a resident of Fatima Subdivision in said barangay. The victim was identified as Ruben Bacalso, 45.

An identification card taken from the suspect shows Moralde as a member of the MNLF with the rank of “lieutenant colonel.”

The green-colored card bears the signatures of Datu Didilusan Arroyo and Nur Misuari, who is the group’s founder.

Senior Police Officer 3 Vladimer Tumada said Bacalso was with a group of men drinking in front of Moralde’s house when the incident happened at about 3 a.m. on Feb. 15.

Tumada said Bacalso succumbed to two gunshot wounds on his neck causing his instant death.

A .38 caliber hand gun was used in the shooting, Tumada said, although they were still searching for the weapon.

He said witnesses pointed at Moralde as the one who pulled the trigger. They said the two had a standing grudge when the suspect was not satisfied with Bacalso’s job as a hired carpenter who was doing some repairs on Moralde’s house.

Following the shooting, Moralde went to Dologon, Maramag town in Bukidnon and hid in an MNLF camp reportedly under Arroyo’s command.

According to radio reporter and commentator Jao Gumapac, who helped facilitate Moralde’s surrender, the suspect told his wife he would only turn himself in if there was an assurance that he would not be harmed.

Gumapac said he went to the MNLF camp with Moralde’s wife and children and was able to talk to the suspect and convince him to surrender to the authorities.

The mediaman said Moralde told him he shot Bacalso out of self-defense and was not even aware that the victim had died.

“He (Moralde) said he managed to take the gun from Bacalso and used it to shoot the victim,” Gumapac said in an interview.

Gumapac said Arroyo also advised Moralde to surrender. The suspect was turned over to Chief Insp. Abdul Alu Sumandar, the Puerto police station commander.

In a radio interview, Arroyo said the MNLF would not tolerate such act from their members and that Moralde has to face whatever charges will be filed against him.

Police Officer 3 Lemuel Tecson, in a separate interview on Sunday, Feb. 17, said it was possible that Moralde would be charged with murder.

“The victim’s family said they are willing to file a case against Moralde,” said Tecson, who is investigating the case.

The suspect is currently detained at the Puerto police holding cell awaiting the filing of appropriate charges.

MNLF Commodore Alfredo de Gracia said if it would be proven that one of their members has violated the law, the MNLF leadership would not hesitate to remove that member from the roster.

But in Moralde’s case, de Gracia said, the MNLF may side with him if the suspect could prove in court that he only defended himself.

“It is the instruction of [Misuari] to never allow any wrongdoings, unless it’s self-defense,” the official said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon.

“We will leave it to the police to conduct an investigation,” de Gracia said, adding that part of the group’s protocol was for the local MNLF command to send a team to conduct an independent probe into the shooting that involved one of its members.(

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