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Midsayap villagers seek reprieve from clan wars

Mindanao Armed Conflict • 22:00 PM Mon May 6, 2019
John Unson
The showdowns among rival families in Midsayap have dislocated hundreds of villagers.

NORTH COTABATO --- Residents of Midsayap wants an extensive involvement of their local officials in the resolution of the conflicts among clans locked in showdowns affecting innocent villagers.

Hundreds of Moro residents were dislocated by the latest gunfights between the Sogod and Namil families, the Talilisen and Mangadta families and the Macarambol and Taha families in Barangays Mudseng, Nes and Tumbras in Midsayap, respectively.

Residents of Midsayap town in North Cotabato, among them barangay officials, told reporters Monday the conflict-affected villagers are expecting a strong response on the problem from their mayor, the reelectionist Romeo Araña.

"It seems he is too scared of possible political intrigues any action on the problem may arise because he is seeking reelection, aspiring for a third term. This is an emergency. There are foreign humanitarian agencies that he can ask to help to avoid stirring issues he seems too apprehensive about. The time to act is now," a foreign-trained Islamic ustadz (preacher), who introduced himself as Abdullah, told reporters Monday.

Araña is chairman of the inter-agency municipal peace and order council, or MPOC.

MPOC members reportedly visited Barangay Tumbras over the weekend and told evacuees from the conflict-affected areas it is now safe to return to their homes.

Senior officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has members in the three conflict-stricken barangays, said Araña can also ask the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities to come in if there is a need for the MILF, the police and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to help settle amicably the clan wars in Barangays Mudseng, Nes and Tumbras.

The joint government-MILF ceasefire committee is comprised of representatives from both sides, among them senior police and military officials based in central Mindanao.

The government and the MILF are bound by security compacts enjoining both sides to cooperate in addressing security problems besetting conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.

“We just don’t know if Mayor Araña already initiated an effort towards that end,” said an MILF official who is now in the regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Barangay officials said Araña can also ask the Red Cross to facilitate the distribution of relief supplies to more than 400 families dislocated by the clan wars if he is worried of issues his political adversaries could raise against him if his office extends humanitarian interventions to evacuees.

Major Arvin Encinas, public affairs officer of 6th ID, said the Army’s 34th Infantry Battalion is doing its best to prevent any spillover of the clan wars to villages outside of Barangays Mudseng, Nes and Tumbras.

Barangay Tumbras was the scene of the latest gunfights among the feuding Macarambol and Taha clans.

Besides squabbling for control of swaths of arable lands in their barangay, the two groups also have deep-seated and long-time political animosity to each other.

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