North Cotabato villagers flee clan wars; local officials intervene for peaceful settlement

COTABATO CITY, Oct. 5 (PNA) -– At least 300 families from a remote village in Alamada, North Cotabato have fled their homes following renewed hostilities involving two armed groups Sunday, officials said today.

The evacuees are now housed in the Barangay Center of Barangay Bao, Alamada, North Cotabato.

North Cotabato Board Member Kelly Antao quoted Alamada officials that the civilians fled at least three “sitios” (sub-villages) Sunday after sporadic fighting erupted between Iranun tribesmen and Ilonggo settlers in Sitio Kaing, Sitio Papandaya and Sitio Naranbuay.

The fighting left two persons wounded. They were identified by the local police as Jose Kagud and Samir Armada.

Antao said on Saturday, he and Board Member Loreto Cabaya have initiated a dialogue involving the warring groups and both agreed to settle the conflict peacefully.

Antao said the conflict started when a group of Ilonggo allegedly attacked three men belonging to Iranun tribe who have relatives in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Two were killed and another was wounded.

The Iranun tribe, led by a certain Commander Datumanong, led the attack on another sub-village to avenge the death of two Iranun villagers, sending residents to evacuate.

In the peace dialogue Saturday, Antao said the Ilonggo settlers agreed to surrender the suspect in the earlier incident and allow the police to file appropriate charges.

“The warring families agreed to allow the filing of charges and let the law takes its course,” Antao said. “I was surprised the armed conflict erupted anew.”

He said both sides have different versions of what triggered the hostilities.

In the meantime, a team of soldiers belonging to the 45th Infantry Battalion and Alamada PNP have been deployed to Barangay Bao to act as peacekeepers.

The municipal social welfare office of Alamada is now attending to the needs of displaced families. (PNA)