By Ali G. Macabalang
Tension escalated in South Upi, Maguindanao when armed stormed with bullets the vehicle of an elected town councilor this morning, Jan. 8, and aggravated residents’ fear spawned by an earlier ambush of the mayor and burning of 13 houses in same municipality.
The military said in a report that the vehicle of Sangguniang Bayan Member Basit Kamid was fired upon by armed men near a school campus along Barangay Lamud in South Upi around 7:30 a.m.
Kamid, a resident of Barangay Biarong, was aboard his vehicle but was unhurt, said a report attributed to Lt. Col. Jonathan Pondanera, commanding officer of the 57th Infantry “MASIKAP” Battalion.
Reports said councilor Kamid’s security escorts exchanged fires with the attackers for about five minutes.
Police elements and soldiers from the Bravo Company of 57th IB responded to the scene, secured the civilians and pursued the armed men fleeing to unknown directions, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID) said.
Major Gen. Juvymax R. Uy, 6ID commander heading also Joint Task Force Central, said his command will work with officials of the provincial government and South Upi to determine the root cause of conflict and resolve the problem.
The Bangsamoro autonomous government through its Ministry of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs was reported as setting a meeting with concerned individuals at South Upi on January 14, 2021 to address the issue.
Investigators initially attributed the attack to a long-standing land conflict, a possible motive similar to the intermittent harassments by armed men against residents belonging to the Teduray tribe in South Upi.
The latest of intimidations against Teduray residents happened on last Dec. 31 when armed men, purportedly trying to drive away the tribesmen from their ancestral domains, torched 13 houses at Barangay Itaw, also in South Upi.
The Bangsamoro government and South Upi town hall had extended relief foods and other basic assistance to the affected residents.
But two days after delivering the relief stuffs to his tribal constituents, South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular and his staff aboard a convoy of vehicles were attacked on their return route at Barangay Pandan by armed men on Jan. 3.
Mayor Insular was unhurt but the ambush had left four casualties among his companions.
The Jan. 3 ambush, during which the attackers exploded first a roadside bomb and later felled the convoy with rifle gunshots, was the third attempt on the mayor’s life. An improvised bomb was exploded near his office in June 2020, while armed men waylaid him along a road in 2015. He survived the two attacks unhurt.
Before today’s ambush, Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu issued a statement calling on civilian, police and military authorities in Maguindanao to carryout cohesive actions what he described as growing violence in the province. AGM