by Malu Cadelina Manar
Publish in Manila Bulletin
Kidapawan City — Two armed rebel groups were believed behind the torching, robbery, and destruction of crops in a village in Matalam, North Cotabato, a local official said.
Ernesto Duong, chairman of Barangay Estado in Matalam, identified one of the leaders of the attackers as Kagui Mansur of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Another group, he said, belongs to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Duong said at least 50 families from Purok-4 evacuated and sought temporary shelter at the barangay multi-purpose hall and relatives at the village center when armed men raided their area.
The first attack happened on the first week of September where seven houses were torched and properties owned by the residents, mostly Ilonggo and Cebuano settlers, were stolen by the attackers.
The same groups, according to Duong, came back on Sept. 13 and again razed to the ground three houses, one of which was owned by former barangay kagawad Mirabueno.
On Sept. 15, Duong said his sugar cane plantation, about 3.7 hectares, were allegedly burned by the Moro rebels.
“We don’t know what to do. These armed men would not stop unless they get the lands that they want,” said Duong.
The village official said the rebels want to reclaim the eight-hectare lot owned by the Pepito family at Purok-4.
“When we had our negotiation, these groups did not want payment. They want the land. The problem is, the residents who are in a way not involved in the conflict, are also affected. In fact, many of our constituents have evacuated to safer areas,” he said.
Duong said he already raised this security concern and the harassments staged by Kagui Mansur’s group to the MILF central committee based in Sultan Kudarat.
“But at this time, there was no action taken from their side,” he said.