Mayor denies harassing Muslims; says he was misunderstood
MAKILALA, North Cotabato, Philippines—Makilala Mayor Rudy Caoagdan said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front got it all wrong when it accused him of trying to force Muslim residents out of a village in nearby Tulunan town.
The MILF, in a post on its website, said that on July 18, Caoagdan led armed men in harassing Muslim residents of Sitio Lacube in a bid to force them out.
The rebel group said Caoagdan wanted the area vacated to give way to his planned African Oil Palm plantation.
The executive admitted having gone to Sitio Lacube on that date but denied the MILF claim but would not comment further on it.
But North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza came to Caoagdan’s defense by saying the mayor was only trying to mediate a conflict involving some families.
She said Caoagdan was also checking on reports about the presence of armed men in the area.
“His presence there was unfortunately misinterpreted by some of the residents” Mendoza said.
Abdul Baclid, a resident of the village, confirmed the presence of intruders in their community. But he said contrary to the MILF’s claim, the intruders were armed only with farming tools.
“They went to the place and began clearing the area, including those portions we have been claiming,” Baclid said.
“I personally talked to Mayor Caoagdan but he disowned those intruders; he said he was just implicated and he asked them to leave the place,” Baclid said.
Mendoza said the provincial government was ready to resolve the conflict in Sitio Lacube before it worsens.