MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNew / 26 April) – The mayor of Wao in Lanao del Sur has called for sobriety to prevent the escalation of violence that left seven residents dead and seven others injured over the weekend.
Five persons, two of them pregnant, were killed and seven others were wounded in an early morning attack Saturday by still unidentified armed men in the remote village of Magamong, Barangay Park Area, Mayor Elvino Balicao Jr told MindaNews in a telephone interview.
The mayor said that a day earlier, on Friday, April 24, in the adjacent village of Campo Dos, also in Barangay Park Area, two minors were killed by suspected cattle rustlers. He said a witness testified having seen a boy who was hacked to death in a remote part of the village. Near the area, a girl was also found dead. The witness reportedly saw the bonnet-wearing suspect fleeing toward Sitio Magampong.
Balicao, in an earlier interview said three children aged 15, 13 and 9 were tending to their carabaos separately in Sitio Campo Dos, Park area, Wao, Lanao del Sur on Friday afternoon when unidentified men tried to grab one of the carabaos. The 15-year old girl reportedly resisted but was no match to the suspects. The mayor said she was later found dead, with hack wounds in different parts of her body.
Balicao said the girl may have been molested before she was killed but this has yet to be verified.
Balicao added that as the cattle rustlers left the place, they saw the 13-year-old boy who was also tending another carabao. He said the armed men took the carabao and hacked the boy to death.
Balicao said the 9-year-old boy, a younger brother of the 13-year old, heard the commotion from several meters away and proceeded to where his brother was. He found him bloodied and lifeless. He also saw one of the suspects washing a bladed weapon.
Balicao said the boy cried and ran away. The suspects chased him but failed to catch up. The boy reached home and told his parents what happened.
The next morning, at a little past 5 a.m. Saturday, residents of Sitio Magampong, a Moro-dominated village were awakened by gunshots.
“Empty shells of cal. 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm were recovered and craters allegedl caused by explosions from 40 mm were also visible at the incident area,” a military report forwarded to Mindanews said.
Scores of residents from the barangay fled to the town proper for fear that violence would escalate. Magampong is a Maranao-dominated village, which is part of Barangay Park Area, which is inhabited predominantly by settlers.
Balicao said he cannot as yet ascertain the identity of the perpetrators of both incidents.
He added that three persons were seen fleeing the vicinity in the Campo Dos incident.
But he said there are no witnesses.
He said the attackers were reported to have fired at three houses in the village
Balicao called for peace in the wake of the killings.
“Di nato gusto maguba pagusab ang relasyon (We don’t want to ruin the relations anymore). We don’t want to go back to square one of this, the mayor said, referring to the communal violence that occurred in his area in the 1970s.
Balicao said he already called the attention of the Moro leadership in Wao “so we can talk about this.”
He said he already requested for troops to stay in the area to help prevent escalation of violence. As of Sunday, police and military forces had been deployed to the area to prevent violence.
“We will do our best that this will no longer escalate,” he said.
Justice, not vengeance
Fr. Floredelito “Yrap” Nazareno, parish priest of the Catholic church in Wao, said they called on parishioners during their masses, to pray for peace.
He said police should investigate and the people of Wao should seek justice, not vengeance.
He feared that the incident could fuel divisiveness in Wao considering the threats of violence by some groups.
Wao, which is 83% inhabited by setters and 17 per cent by Moro, had earlier asked not to be automatically included in the proposed core territory of the Bangsamoro even as Lanao del Sur is part of the core territory.
Joint MPOC and MDRRMC meet
Lominog Poloyagan, Wao’s municipal environment and natural resources officer, said the mayor convened an emergency meeting Sunday of the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC).
A Council of Elders from both Moro and settler-residents will meet on Monday, he said.
Poloyagan, a Maranao, said most of the victims were women, including two who were pregnant.
Poloyagan named four of the victims as Emran Manabilan, Hanefa Mangutara, Master Baraiman, and Almera Sumayan Mandoc. He said Mangutara was four months pregnant and Mandoc two two pregnant.
The list of the wounde include: Amron Balindong, Samanera Sumayan, Abdela Mangotara Mauna, Jalel Talib, 12 year old Faisal Sumayan, six-year old Bunso Sumayan, and Jalel Manabilang.
On Sunday morning, Mayor Balicao, addressed the massgoers after Fr. Nzareno’s homily and called on them to stand and protect the peace in the area.
Nazareno said he has initiated contacting his counterparts in the Wao Interfaith Group, to do what they can to avert violence similar to what plagued them in the 1970s.
“That is over. Let us not go back to that time,” Nazareno said. (Walter I. Balane with reports from Ferdinandh B. Cabrera and Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)