KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/23 June) – Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo condemned “in strongest terms” the attack on Wednesday of the Catholic chapel in Barangay Malagakit, Pigcawayan in North Cotabato.
In a statement Wednesday, Quevedo cited in particular the desecration of the sacred hosts being kept at the chapel.
Also destroyed were images of some saints and the walls.
The Army’s 602nd Brigade blamed the acts on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), whose members attacked on Wednesday Barangays Simsiman and Malagakit.
“These are irreligious acts that cry out to heaven. Such acts are similar to the desecration of a mosque and the sacred Qur’an by non-Muslims. Both desecrations are gravely sinful,” Quevedo said.
He said that if the BIFF wanted to have an image as a ‘respecter’ of all religions, “It must punish its members who perpetrated the desecration in Malagakit and educate all its members in respecting other religions.”
The Cardinal enjoined the Catholics of Malagakit to restore the sanctity of their chapel and ask all the faithful of the Archdiocese to pray for peace and harmony among all believers of different religions.
The clashes in Pigcawayan left eight people dead and 10 others wounded. One of the fatalities was a trainee of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and another civilian, according to Captain Nap Alcarioto, spokesperson of the 602nd Brigade.
Two CAFGU members sustained minor injuries during the firefight, Alcarioto said.
The clashes forced some 2,000 residents from Pigcawayan and Midsayap towns to flee their villages and sought temporary shelters in safe areas.
Lt. Col. Angelo Lutera, commander of the 34th Infantry Battalion, said the continued pounding of mortars in Malagakit forced the attackers, about 200 of them, to withdraw to the marsh in Maguindanao.
At 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Lutera said his men, elements of the 7th IB, and members of the Cotabato Police Provincial Office, were able to enter and occupy Malagakit.
The next morning, they raised the Philippine flag at Malagakit Elementary School. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)