WAO, Lanao Del Sur (MindaNews / 03May) – The vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslm Mindanao (ARMM) has appealed to residents here to remain calm and not allow the April 25-26 killings to lead to a return to the 1970s’ sectarian violence.
“Crimes happen even in Metro Manila, even in Vatican for that matter, even in Mecca, the holiest places on earth. This one is an isolated incident. Do not throw different issues, because as far as we know, Wao is one of the peaceful places on earth and we should not allow any individual person to destroy that,” ARMM Vice Governor Alrashid Lucman said during his visit here Thursday, as he called on residents to let justice take its course.
Early morning of April 25, gunshots woke up residents in Purok Riing, Sitio Magampong, Barangay Park Area, allegedly in retaliation for the killing a day earlier of a 15-year old girl and a 13-year old boy in Sitio Campo Dos, a predominantly Ilonggo community.
A witness allegedlly saw the bonnet-wearing bolo-wielding suspect fleeing towards Sitio Magampong. The next morning, armed men attacked Sitio Magampong, a predominantly Maranao community. Four persons were killed and nine others injured, seven of them confined in the hospitals in neighboring Bukidnon.
Local officials immediately called for sobriety and religious leaders from both Christians and Muslims also appealed to residents to remain calm while investigation into the Friday and Saturday killings, is underway, to avoid a repeat of the violence in the 1970s.
Lucman on Thursday led a delegation of the ARMM-Humanitarian Emergency Action Rescue Team (ARMM-HEART) in providing relief assistance to the displaced families.
In the village where residents of Sitio Magampong, Barangay Park Area evacuated after armed men attacked their sitio and left left four persons dead and nine others injured, 20-year old Lailyn Ali, who is due to deliver her baby this month, recalled how scared she was when bullets rained on their houses early morning of April 25.
“Nahihirapan po ako, lalo na noong tumakas kami papunta dito kasi sobra yung takot namin. Nag- aalala po ako kasi kabuwanan ko ngayon” (It was difficult for me, especially when we were fleeing to this place. We were so scared.”
She said she lost her friends and neighbors, two of whom were pregnant – one four months and the other two months.
“Sobra po yung ginawa nila sa amin. Yung mga kaklase ko po, mga kaibigan ko, yung si Almira namatay po dahil sa pinagagawa nila” (What they did is too much. My classmates and friends, and Almira died because of what they did), she added.
Lailyn said that after the armed men left, they found the lifeless Hanifah Sumayan-Mangutara, 29, four months pregnant, and her sister Almera Sumayan-Mandoc, 22, two months pregnant.
Also killed were six year-old Emran Manambilang and 50 year old Master Pendatun.
Ali says she and her children are still suffering from trauma. She recalls fleeing their village with her terrified children crying. She demands justice for what happened to them,
A teener described how nervous she was when she heard the gunshots.
“Natakot ako kasi akala ko parang lahat kami mamamatay,” (I was so afraid. I thought all of us would die,” she said.
Anisah Kasan, a neighor, echoed the teener’s fears. Anisah is worried about the farmland they left behind.
At least 495 families or approximately 1,828 individuals fled to the nearby villages of Barangay Area Park but families have started returning home as of Friday.
Lucman handed over some financial assistance to the families of the slain victims and the wounded.
“You cannot quantify the suffering of the family who lost their loved ones but at least with this help we gave, we can help them ease their suffering,” he said.
Mayor Elvino B. Balicao, Jr., together with Police Chief Inspector Erickson Baniaga, assured the people they would ensure there would be no repeat of these violent incidents.
Lanao Del Sur Governor Mamintal “ Bombit” Adiong had earlier called an emergency meeting with local officials to prevent an escalation of the conflict.
He urged barangay officials to help identify the culprits behind the two incidents of brutal killings.
The meeting ended with the establishment of a local crisis committee composed of tribal leaders, representatives from the Moro and settler communities, and Sanguniang Bayan members to prevent escalation of conflict while looking for justice for the slain in Campo Dos and the four slain in (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera with reports from Jeffrey Allen Paclibar, Carelle Shane Bacordo/USM interns)