ZAMBOANGA CITY—It’s a family feud (rido) complicated by politics. Thus was described the deadliest attack so far in a string of election-related violence in Mindanao in the run-up to the May 13 elections.
Twelve people were killed in an ambush on a Lanao del Norte town mayor late Thursday.
The military yesterday said it had sent more troops to Nunungan, Lanao del Norte, to forestall further violence as a result of the attack on Mayor Abdulmalik Manamparan and his supporters.
About 15 unidentified gunmen opened fire on a truck carrying Manamparan who was returning home after campaigning in Barangay Malaig, a remote village.
Twelve people, including a daughter and granddaughter of Manamparan, were killed in the 6:30 p.m. ambush.
Eight people, including Manamparan, were injured in the attack which police officials blamed on long-running clan disputes of Muslim families in troubled Mindanao.
A police report said an officer serving as the mayor’s bodyguard was also wounded as he fought off the attackers with an M16 rifle before soldiers and policemen arrived.
Containing spillover effect
Brig. Gen. Daniel Lucero, the commander of the 1st Infantry Division based in Zamboanga del Sur, said the ambush site, a remote mountain road near Nunungan, was in an area where the Koreans who were kidnapped a few years ago had been held.
“We have beefed up troops and deployed more soldiers from the 35th Infantry Battalion in support of the police. We are also trying to contain a possible spillover into other areas in nearby Lanao del Sur, like Pikong,” Lucero said.
According to Lucero, like other Muslim communities in Mindanao, Nunungan is gripped by politically motivated conflicts, where the antagonists are mostly armed and pose serious problems for the military and the police.
While more troops had been sent in, the military was also “praying the situation would not get worse and spread to other areas,” he said.
Manamparan, the outgoing mayor, is running for the lower post of vice mayor of his mainly Muslim town. His son and namesake, who is running for mayor, was not among the ambush casualties.
The Manamparans are running against candidates backed by President Aquino’s Liberal Party.
“They are facing strong opponents from the Liberal Party,” Col. Ricardo Jalad, the local military commander, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). However, the Manamparan family’s election opponents are not being considered suspects at this time, he said.
“It is unclear at this point who is responsible. The police are investigating, but the mayor’s relatives have made themselves scarce,” Jalad said.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the authorities were attempting to establish the identities and motives of the attackers.
“We strongly condemn this act of violence,” she told reporters in Manila.
“We appeal to the supporters of the different candidates to keep calm and continue to campaign for their particular candidates.”
A family feud
“They killed my granddaughter,” Manamparan told AFP from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for a shrapnel wound that grazed his head.
The mayor said he had a good idea who was responsible for the attack, but declined to discuss his suspicions.
Senior Supt. Gerardo Rosales, the provincial police chief, said investigators were checking the involvement of certain clans which had had previous scraps with the Manamparan family.
“They (survivors) identified the attackers last night, they gave us names … They told us it was a family feud,” Rosales told reporters.
Jalad said the ambush was the first big incident of political violence in Nunungan in the past year.
However, he said Nunungan and neighboring predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao had been blighted by occasional killings linked to decades-old clan wars.
Old wounds reopened
Lucero said Manamparan had many relatives in Lanao del Sur and the ambush could trigger “emotional reactions” that could lead to more serious problems.
He said the ambush was an offshoot of long-standing grudges, or rido, involving the Manamparan clan and other political clans he did not identify.
“Old wounds opened when a certain camp declared candidacy for a similar position, and it has become more intense once they filed their respective candidacies. Joining an election is like inviting or attracting violence from the other side,” he added.
Manamparan agreed that the attack was triggered by a family feud that had been complicated by politics.
“It’s [an offshoot of] a family feud,” he told a Cotabato City radio station on Saturday, but did not elaborate.
Rosales said Manamparan had named several personalities as possible suspects. “There is an ongoing operation against them now,” he said.
He said police and military had blocked all possible exit routes in the town as “manhunt operations against the attackers” had been launched.
The fatalities, identified as close relatives of the mayor, were: Adnanie, 32, Baobi, 25, and Sadam, all surnamed Manamparan; Johani Bantuas, 21; Sami Sanayon, 21; Baby Dimasangcay, 16; Lala Diamrang, 54; Apipa Mamantuc, 18; Saidona Mamantuc, 52; Hamdan Mamantuc, 18; Alinor Mamantuc, 19; and Maliha Sultan, 17.
Aside from Manamparan, the other injured victims were Amera Labe, 15; Welfredo Vega, 44; PO1 Frenel Laguting, 24; Lili Macaraya, 16; Noaman Watamama, 17; Aiman Dimasangcay, 15; and Nobaisa Otto, 19.
Other Mindanao violence
Election-season violence continues to plague elections in the country where more than 18,000 posts are at stake in the May 13 balloting, from town mayors and governors to members of Congress.
A running police tally lists 30 deaths from 45 other violent incidents reported since the start of the campaign in February.
Last week, communist rebels ambushed the convoy of Gingoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona, the wife of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., killing two of her aides and wounding her and a police escort.
In Kabacan, North Cotabato, an unidentified perpetrator tossed a hand grenade into the house of reelectionist Councilor George Manuel on Thursday evening but no one was harmed, police chief Supt. Leo Ajero said.
On Wednesday, an improvised explosive went off in Guindulungan, Maguindanao, killing Macasampen village chief Salindatu Raguiamuda who was at the wheel of a Toyota Tamaraw. The barangay official’s son and a bystander were injured in the blast.
On April 16, a sub-village leader of Ampatuan town, also in Maguindanao, was killed while two others were wounded when they were ambushed by unidentified men.
On April 11, the United Nationalist Alliance mayoral candidate for the town of Kabuntalan, Maguindanao, reported to the police that he and his campaign supporters were harassed by unidentified gunmen as they went on a house-to-house campaign. Reports from Julie Alipala, Richel Umel, Jeoffrey Maitem, Edwin Fernandez, Charlie Señase and Judy Quiros, Inquirer Mindanao, with AFP and AP