Maguindanao village residents arm selves after BIFF attack
AMPATUAN, Maguindanao – Residents of Barangay Kauran here said they have decided not to take any chances – despite the deployment of soldiers in the village – and have invested in firearms to protect themselves from atrocities by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“This is to defend ourselves and our communities,” a male farmer, who showed to reporters his M-16 Armalite rifle, said. He asked not to be named but denied they were members of “Pulahan,” a Christian armed group.
The farmer said since Christmas Day, following the BIFF attack that killed six of their neighbors, they have been taking turns securing the village.
“We took turns in securing the village, some sleep but many of us remain awake at night,” the farmer added.
Like the rest of the village, the farmer said they could not understand why the BIFF has targeted them.
“This is too much. We have not done anything wrong. We are just farmers working hard to earn a living. Then the BIFF would come and kill us. This is not correct, this is inhuman,” he added.
Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said the men killed were armed and had engaged them in firefight.
Aside from their six neighbors, BIFF gunmen also executed two more men from the adjacent village of Palian on Christmas Eve, the villagers said.
“We were supposed to celebrate Christmas. Instead, we are mourning the deaths of our six neighbors,” the man said.
Another villager, who apparently has not slept for days, said they could not afford to be complacent because “there are reports the BIFF are just around the village, observing and watching us.”
“If they attack again, we are ready this time,” he said in Filipino.
Since the Christmas Eve attack, only male residents have been moving around the village while children and women have sought refuge in the village hall. At least 6,000 people from neighboring villages also fled for fear of being attacked too.
“If they come, we will welcome them with bullets, we will return the favor,” another villager said.
Biling Linasa, Kauran village chair, said he could not blame people for arming themselves as they have been traumatized by the deaths of their neighbors.
Col. Ricky Bunayog, commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, said soldiers have been deployed in the periphery of communities that the BIFF has stormed. He said the military was ready this time.
“We are holding the BIFF accountable for these attacks. We will not allow them to continue this terrorism,” Maj. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said after meeting local military commanders in Maguindanao.
Asked to comment on civilians taking up arms, Bunayog said only militiamen would be allowed to carry firearms in the village.
“If civilians are proving to be possessing guns without authority, they will be arrested and charged. Only paramilitary will be allowed to carry guns in Kauran,” he said. SFM
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.