Cops step up hunt for Leyte town plaza blast suspect

PALO, Leyte – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has intensified their search for the main suspect of the town plaza bombing in Hilongos, Leyte that injured 32 people late last year.

Chief Insp. Ma. Bella Rentuaya, PNP Eastern Visayas spokesperson, said on Tuesday that all police units in the region have been directed to hunt down the principal suspect, Jake Anthony Perez Macuto.

“Macuto is said to have resided in Concepcion village, Hilongos, Leyte before the bombing. He also resided before in Lanao del Norte and is said to be roaming freely in Maguindanao area,” Rentuaya said.

The police regional office here has closely coordinated with their counterparts in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to arrest the suspect.

Judge Suarez Abando, of the Hilongos, Leyte Court Branch 18, issued the warrant of arrest for Macuto on April 11, almost four months after the explosion that spoiled the town fiesta celebration on Dec. 28.

Macuto, 26, a Muslim convert, was reportedly involved in plotting the foiled bombing near the United States embassy on Nov. 28 and the failed Black Nazarene attack recently.

Macuto, together with two John Does, was charged before the court with multiple frustrated murder.

Macuto is said to be a recruit of the Maute group, a radical group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS. Vicky C. Arnaiz/