( dpa ) - A mayor in the southern Philippines was under fire Monday for admitting he paid off a notorious extortion gang to spare his city from bomb attacks.
Mayor Rodolfo Gantuangco of Kidapawan City, 960 kilometres south of Manila, told a local radio station on Sunday that he paid 100,000 pesos (2,469 dollars) in "protection money" to the al-Khobar gang.
Gantuangco said the money was sourced from the city's peace and order funds and deposited to a bank account of a gang member in nearby Zamboanga Sibugay province.
Councilor Gregory Yarra said the mayor has been asked to explain the payoff to the city council.
"The payoff was illegal," he said.
One businessman who declined to be identified blasted the mayor.
"His reason was not valid," the irate businessman said. "He gave life to the extortion ring and we expect more extortion and bombing in the future because of that."
Al-Khobar, whose members include rogue Muslim separatist rebels, was responsible for several bomb attacks in Kidapawan City, including the bombing of a mall in the town centre in November last year.
One man was killed and seven wounded in the attack on the KNCC Mall in Kidapawan.
The group has also been blamed for bomb attacks on several passenger buses and bus terminals in the nearby areas, whose owners have refused to pay extortion money.