Displaced villagers return after BIFF attack in Pigcawayan | Inquirer News

Displaced villagers return after BIFF attack in Pigcawayan

/ 01:31 PM June 25, 2017

FLEEING TERROR Residents displaced by the fighting between government troops and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Pigcawayan town in North Cotabato province arrive at the town hall compound, away from the terror that gripped their community on Wednesday. —VALERIE LAMBO/CONTRIBUTOR

COTABATO CITY – Despite uncertainty, villagers displaced by atrocities committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Saturday returned to Barangay Malagakit and nearby communities in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Many of them, with their valuables in tow, were sent to the villages by the local government of Pigcawayan.

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Residents, mostly farmers, said they will return and stay in Malagakit at day time but would move to the town center at night time. Males, they agreed, will remain to secure their communities.

But one of them will never step back to Malagakit.

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Gloryjane Cutay, whose husband was killed in front of her and their children, vowed not to return to Barangay Malagakit.

Gloryjane recalled that her husband, Abraham, told her to stay inside a rice mill, when the rebels attacked Malagakit and adjacent village of Simsiman on June 22.

Abraham was to become a full-time member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) by June 30.

One of the BIFF members was his friend who refused to shoot him despite his superior’s order.

“Finish him (Abraham) or he will finish you in the future,” Gloryjane recalled a senior BIFF man telling her husband’s friend.

Instead, another BIFF member opened fire on Abraham, killing him instantly.

“I will move to another place,” she said at the evacuation center in Barangay Poblacion Pigcawayan.

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Anasita dela Cruz, 49, a resident of Barangay Malagakit, said she and her family and relatives have to return to Malagakit despite uncertainty “because we have no other options.”

With farming as their main livelihood, Dela Cruz said they have to go home at their own risk.

“I know the BIFF will return, we just have to be ready all the time.”

On Saturday, Dela Cruz’ family and about 400 families returned to the villages of Malagakit, Simsiman and Banucagon in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato.

Jezler Garcesa, spokesperson of Pigcawayan Crisis Management Committee, said the military has given the green light for their return.

“The area has been cleared from gunmen and possible explosives,” Garcesa said.

Garcesa said some residents prefer to stay in evacuation centers in Pigcawayan National High School, Bulucaon covered court and at Panatan Barangay Hall.

“They are still undergoing stress debriefing,” he said of the civilians who remain in temporary shelters.

Capt. John Arvin Encinas, speaking for the regional military, said the three adjoining villages have been cleared of booby traps left by the outlawed armed group.

He added that an Army detachment had been put up to thwart future attempts to harass the communities of both Muslim and Christian farmers.

Six BIFF fighters, a militiaman and a farmer were killed when about 50 armed men attacked a militia outpost in Malagakit last week.

The gunmen also looted some residences of canned goods and rice supplies while other gunmen desecrated the San Jose Chapel of Barangay Malagakit.

Catholic leaders and Muslim preachers condemned the act of the BIFF in destroying religious images inside the chapel.

Supt. Joyce Birrey, speaking for the North Cotabato police office, said two other civilians, couple Elias and Cerella Juanites, were injured during the harassment.

Following the incident, Encinas said Army and para-military troops have been deployed in villages along the borders of North Cotabato and Maguindanao that the BIFF regularly harassed, especially during harvest season. JE/rga

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TAGS: attack, BIFF, displaced, North Cotabato, Pigcawayan, resident, Residents, Villagers
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