KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/2 Dec) – Two village guards were killed after they exchanged gunfire with 20 fully armed Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels along the boundary of the towns of Pikit and Aleosan, both in North Cotabato, around 10:45 a.m. today, military reports said.
Lt. Col. Domingo Gubuay, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion, said the village guards, led by a councilor of Barangay Langayen in Pikit surnamed Hamid, were conducting patrol operations at Sitio Hillside when they chanced upon a group of Moro rebels.
The rebels, according to Gubuay, were led by MILF Commanders Sagko, Kutib and Nasser Sampayan under the 105th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).
The police have yet to identify the fatalities.
Sr. Insp. Elias Dandan, chief of Pikit police, said the armed skirmishes that already resulted to the displacement of more than 300 families from Barangays Dungguan in Aleosan and Langayen in Pikit were caused by “rido” or clan wars.
The evacuees have sought refuge at the barangay proper in Langayen, according to Dandan.
The towns of Pikit and Aleosan were two of the areas in North Cotabato claimed by the MILF as part of their territory, reports said.
Authorities said they already sent a team from the Army and the Philippine National Police in the area to secure the villagers from further attacks.
Barangay Langayen is also one of the 20 villages in Pikit considered as “areas of immediate concern” by the Comelec and police during the October 25 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
It was not clear, though, if the armed fighting in Langayen has something to do with the recent local polls.
In Pikit, three elementary school buildings from three villages were torched by armed men believed to be supporters of defeated candidates.
At 1:30 p.m. today, a school building constructed by the Engineering Battalion of the 6th Infantry Division was turned over to management of the Gocotan Elementary School in Barangay Gocotan, also in Pikit, as a replacement to the five-classroom building that was razed to the ground a week after the October 25 elections.
Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan led the turnover, which was witnessed by Cotabato Gov. Lala Talino-Mendoza, Maj. Gen. Anthony Alcantara of the 6ID and officials of the Department of Education.
The building costs more than half a million pesos, P400,000 of which came from the funds of the provincial government and the rest from the local government unit of Pikit, according to Sultan. (Malu Cadeliña Manar / MindaNews)