Clashes erupt among Moro factions in Cotabato
COTABATO CITY — Five people, four of them members of two infighting factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), were killed in violence that flared up in Barangay Macabual of Pikit town in Cotabato province on Wednesday night, sending at least 100 families fleeing their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
MILF leaders descended on the area to pacify their warring members even as torrential rains submerged a number of villages in the province in floodwater and sent at least 10,000 families to evacuation centers.
Among those killed was Lito Quinunez, a mentally challenged resident of Barangay Lower Ladtingan. He was caught in a crossfire between the groups of Bugdad Akas and Walid Mamasamlang, both MILF local leaders in Macabual, who clashed on Wednesday night, Police Maj. Maxim Peralta, Pikit municipal police chief, said on Friday.
Quinunez died instantly from multiple gunshot wounds, his remains retrieved around 10 a.m. on Thursday, according to Peralta.
The other fatalities were Ronnie Dianalan and Makron Baganian, both members of MILF Walid group and two still unidentified MILF members. The families of Dianalan and Baganian already claimed the bodies to give them decent burial based on Islam traditions, police said.
Reynaldo Mercado, a member of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team was hit by a stray bullet while he was sweeping outside a detachment within the boundary of Ladtingan and Macabual. He was immediately rushed to a hospotal in Barangay Poblacion, Pikit.
At least 100 families from Macabual took refuge at the nearby Lower Ladtingan village while others stayed at the evacuation centers waiting for the tension to subside. The MILF peace monitoring team is now in the area to pacify the warring factions although sporadic gunfire was still heard as of 12 p.m. on Thursday.
Ladtingan village councilman Renald Palma said in a radio interview that some houses in nearby Gle-gli village were also hit by stray bullets during the intense gunfire on Wednesday night while a rocket-propelled grenade landed on the wooden door of one of the residents.
Peralta said the violence erupted after the killing last month of Macabual village chair Jalandoni Matalam Akas, whose family blamed MILF leader Mamasamlang.
Peacekeeping forces have been deployed near Macabual “to prevent spillover of the conflict” while emissaries from the MILF central committee were in the area to diffuse tension.
“There were evacuees but many stayed with their relatives in nearby communities,” Peralta said.
Macabual, a village with a population of about 4,500 based on the 2020 census, is now part of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao after it voted to join the Bangsamoro region even as Pikit itself remained with Cotabato province.
Peralta said that while the village no longer belongs to Pikit, the town’s police personnel were still providing security measures to its adjacent communities to prevent spillover. He said government forces were heading to the area to put an end to the hostilities between the two factions so that the displaced civilians could return home.
“We evacuate because of floods and because of rido (clan war),” said Anok Bugasan, a resident of Macabual who fled to the town center before the firefight erupted.
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