300 families flee clashes in Maguindanao del Sur town
COTABATO CITY — At least 300 families fled their homes in Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao del Sur, on Tuesday, following clashes between two feuding commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and their followers, police and local officials said.
While evacuating his family at the height of the clashes, a member of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit was killed, said Capt. Joel Lebrilla, Rajah Buayan police chief. He did not name the victim.
“I was told two were injured from both sides since the fighting erupted,” Rajah Buayan Mayor Bai Maruja Ampatuan Mastura said. Mastura said the displaced families were staying in the elementary school of Barangay Bakat or in the houses of relatives.
“They fled for fear they might be hit by stray bullets,” she said.
The evacuation, she said, was triggered by a gunfight between the followers of Jacky Dagandal, commander of the 106th base command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the MILF, and Datu Macky Uto, commander of the 105th base command also of the BIAF.
MILF combatants are already in the process of being decommissioned, part of the normalization process of the peace deal that the former rebel group signed with the government.
Lebrilla said the feuding MILF members had been locked in “rido” (clan war) since 2020.
“This is due to conflict over control of vast territory in Rajah Buayan,” he said. “The warring groups already agreed to an amicable settlement in September 2022 but now, they are fighting again.”
Although the tension already died down on Wednesday, Mastura noted that the evacuees refused to return home because they were still worried about their safety.
Mastura appealed to Maguindanao del Sur Gov. Bai Mariam Mangudadatu to help the evacuees as the local government had limited relief supplies.
Brig. Gen. Oriel Pangcog, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said representatives from the government and the MILF coordinating committee on cessation of hostilities were sent to Rajah Buayan. “Mediators are already in the area for peaceful settlement of the conflict,” Pangcog said.
—Edwin O. Fernandez
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