200 families flee 3 villages as clan war erupts anew in N. CotabatoBy Charlie C. Señase
COTABATO CITY, Philippines–Fighting between warring Moro factions erupted anew in North Cotabato on Sunday, forcing nearly 200 families to evacuate from three affected villages in Aleosan and Carmen towns.
Colonel Benjamin Hao, chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said the armed encounter, traced to rido (clan war) sparked by a land ownership dispute between followers of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, lasted for two hours in Barangay Tunganon that spilled over to adjacent villages of Lawili and Lapu-Lapu.
He said they were still trying to determine reports of casualties from combatants and civilians as of Monday, “but what is certain is that from 140 families, another 30 more were reported to have abandoned their houses.”
Residents, according to Hao, also reported 16 houses in Lawili village were razed in the course of the fighting that began mid-morning Sunday.
Colonel Roy Galido, commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion, said early this month some 500 residents had to flee their homes when the same former comrades in arms clashed over control of agricultural land in Aleosan.
“We managed to settle this down through the help of local government units, religious leaders and civilian sector,” Galido said.
Galido and Hao maintained that their role in the Armed Forces is to ensure the safety of civilians and not involve themselves in the hostilities.
They said the involvement of some MILF and MNLF field commanders in the atrocities was their being related to villagers who claim ownership to disputed properties.
The renewed fighting, according to them, is hoped not to affect the ongoing peace negotiations between the MILF and the government.