By Ali G. Macabalang
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government, through its Ministry of Interior and Local Government (MILG), has extended relief goods to families affected by latest segment of intermittent atrocities that peaked in armed men’s torching of indigenous tribesmen’s houses on New Year’s Eve.
Workers of the BARMM’s Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READI), a special program of the Office of the Chief Minister managed by the MILG, delivered on January 4 a truckload of relief items and distribute the goods to dozens of families directly and indirectly affected in the arson-capped attack.
Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM spokesman and MILG minister, described the humanitarian field operation as the “first (official) act” this year of his ministry, which the local media viewed as the “most dynamically visible” agency of the regional governance.
READI workers said each of the relief packages contained 12 kilos of premium rice and12 canned goods alongside basic commodities needed most by families affected in the Dec. 31 attack that left 13 houses torched.
A report published on Jan. 3 quoted a Teduray resident as complaining about a series of harassment meant to drive them away from their ancestral lands.
“They want us to leave our ancestral lands…This is about land conflict. We are asking the (Philippine) Army to put up a CAFGU (Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit) detachment here,” a Tedurary evacuee said in the report.
Cotabato-based journalist John Unson, who has direct access to South and North Upi, had earlier written news items confirming harassment of Teduray villagers by “Maguindanaon-speaking” armed men.
READI said Chief Minister Ahod “Hadji Murad” Ebrahim and Minister Sinarimbo have urged authorities to investigate thoroughly the incident and institute measures that will quell further attacks on Teduray villagers in South Upi.
Reports attributed to Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, head of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, described the arsonists as the same people suspected in the ambush on a convoy of vehicles carrying South Upi Mayor Reynalbert “Obet” Insular and companions on Sunday, Jan. 3, afternoon at Barangay Pandan.
The attackers reportedly staged the Jan. 3 attack with an initial roadside bombing and subsequent assault rifles’ shots at the mayor’s convoy.
Mayor Insular was unhurt in the attack, but a report in the Mindanews.com said an escort of the mayor – named as Thelmo Divinagracia, 28 years old – was killed, while three other companions were injured. One of the wounded was an elected councilor in South Upi, according to another report.
Responding soldiers from the 57th Infantry Battalion rescue the ambush victims and rushed them to a hospital here, even as two military helicopters fired rockets and machineguns’ shots at the fleeing suspects while reportedly fleeing toward upland communities in Talayan, Datu Saudi and Datu Unsay towns in Maguindanao.
The attack was the third attempt on the life of the mayor. The first was staged on July 14, 2015 by armed men that fired a rocket-propelled grenade, but missed, while Insular’s convoy was cruising Kilometer 28 in neighboring North Upi town.
On June 23, 2020, an improvised bomb was exploded at the back of the town hall, while he was holding office. The blast shuttered window glasses at the mayor’s office, it was learned. AGM