By Ali G. Macabalang
Civilian, police and military authorities should institute cohesive measures to curb rising violence in some parts of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), particularly in Maguindanao.
Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu aired such call in a statement issued on Jan. 5, less than a week after armed men burned 13 houses in Barangay Itaw, a Teduray village in South Upi town, on Dec. 31 and ambushed the convoy of vehicles of the town mayor on Jan. 3, reportedly killing an escort and wounding four other companions.
“I am appealing to the provincial authorities and the AFP to join forces for the immediate reduction, if not eradication, of violence in Maguindanao so that our province will gain stability and safeguards for our constituents,” the former-governor-turned-lawmaker said.
Mangudadatu said he noticed an upscale in violent incidents in his province which authorities attributed to sporadic attacks by radicals like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerillas and partisan armed men purportedly training atrocities on South Upi, notably Teduray occupying ancestral lands and town Mayor Reynalbert Insular.
Mayor Insular, along with members of the South Upi Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC), had just concluded relief aid operation to displaced families in Barangay Itaw when gunmen opened fire on their vehicles along Barangay Pandan in their return route.
The Jan. 3 ambush reportedly left Mayor Insular unhurt, but one of his escorts was killed and four other companions including two student-hitchers were wounded. It was the third slay-try on the mayor, who also survived an ambush on July 14, 2015 and a bomb attack at his town hall on June 23, 2019.
Rep. Mangudadatu also called on the Bangsamoro government to look into the issue and create a swift solution to the plight of Teduray villagers purportedly being harassed to abandon their ancestral lands.
“We have seen a big increase in the number of deadly incidences against civilians who lose lives, limbs, livelihood and their houses in the process. Napapanahon na para magkaroon ng mas malalim na pagtingin at pag-iimbestiga sa mga kasong ito, gaya umano sa ginagawang panggigipit sa ating mga kapatid na katutubo dahil pilit na inaagaw ang kanilang lupa o ancestral domain,” said Mangudadatu.
Mangudadatu concluded his statement to say: “The peace and order situation in Maguindanao is a far-cry from what it used to be years ago. It has now become a bedrock of insurgencies, deaths and terroristic acts. The constituents of the province need to be protected now more than ever.” AGM