MILF rebels abandon Sangay village

It could not be ascertained if they left voluntarily after negotiations with Gov. Suharto Teng Mangudadatu or because of the Army’s assault, with heavy artillery, against the 300-strong rebel force.

Mangudadatu’s team reportedly talked to another MILF commander, Akmad Usman, to convince Commander Boyet to abandon Barangay Sangay, a village occupied mostly by Ilocano and Ilonggo-speaking farmers. Boyet is Akmad’s closest aide.

Some 1,000 residents left their homes and fled to the poblacion in Kalamansig and in neighboring Palembang town.

Col. Danilo Garcia, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade, said Commander Akmad agreed to withdraw his 300 followers after negotiations with the governor. But Garcia said that while the talks were ongoing, he sent his men and artillery to drive the rebels away.

The village is planted to rice and corn. The farmers were about to harvest their produce the rebels raided the area.

The rebels claimed their forefathers were driven away from the lands in 1970s during martial law and at the height of the Moro rebellion. They said they were surprised that when they came back in the 1980s, the Ilonggos and the Ilocanos were already tilling their lands.

The settlers, however, said they have the titles as proof that they legally own the lands.

Kalamansig Mayor Rolando Garcia said he has sought the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Lands to help settle the land dispute and prevent further bloodshed in the future. (MindaNews)

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