KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/ 18 January)– Residents from three villages in Datu Montawal town in Maguindanao fled to safer zones after warring clans clashed anew in the Poblacion area at around 2 a.m. Friday, a former village official said.
Abdul Pandita, a resident of Poblacion, said the displaced families, mostly from the villages of Tunggol, Dungguan and Talapas, have sought
temporary shelter at the Dungguan Elementary School and the Ligawasan Elementary School, both in Datu Montawal and situated along the Datu Montawal-Pikit highway.
Pandita said the fighting started when the group of a certain Commander Bigkog of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked the position of the private armies allegedly maintained by Datu Andy Montawal, brother of Datu Montawal Mayor Datu Uttoh Montawal.
Datu Andy, who is wanted for murder and rape charges, was with a certain Medtalicop Montawal, his relative, at the time, Pandita said.
Pandita said the deployment of Datu Andy’s alleged private armies in some areas outside the Poblacion had angered Commander Bigkog.
Pandita explained that he happened to know Bigkog’s plan because he was once part of the group.
“Commander Bigkog was just defending his own people, many of them harassed by Datu Andy and his men,” he told the media here.
In an interview, an irked Mayor Montawal castigated Bigkog’s group for linking him in the latest atrocity in the town.
“I don’t know why these people would always blame me for Datu Andy’s activities, if there were such reports. I don’t know where my
brother is hiding,” Montawal said.
According to the mayor, Commander Bigkog, also known in the community as “Transceiver,” has been wanted for murder since 2012.
Montawal also accused Bigkog of siding with his political foe, Datu Montawal Vice Mayor Muhalidin Bao.
Montawal and Bao are step brothers.
Bao, on his last term as vice mayor, is running for mayor against Montawal.
Soldiers from the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion and policemen from Datu Montawal town have been deployed to the conflict-affected areas
to restore order. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)