MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/22 Jan) – An estimated 100 persons fled sitios Kahayagan and Katipunan in Bumbaran, Lanao del Sur due to clashes between armed groups of alleged bandits and farmers in the area, Nestor Macapayag, mayor of neighboring town Talakag, Bukidnon told MindaNews Sunday noon.
Macapayag said residents sought refuge in Sitio Tigason, Barangay Dominorog, in his Talakag town following the firefight between the armed groups at around 9 a.m. on Friday morning.
He said Jojo Pesigan, a member of the farmers’ group, was killed.
Bumbaran is a town bordering Talakag, Bukidnon.
Maj. Duphar Chris Cuaresma, chief of police of Talakag town reported in an SMS to Col. Rustom Duran, Bukidnon police director that a certain Mama Orak, allegedly a bandit, led some 40 armed Maranaos in the clash with armed settler-families.
Dominorog barangay chair David Palacio told MindaNews the conflict can be traced to land. . He said the alleged bandits are reportedly extorting 20 percent of the farmers’ harvest.
Palacio added the residents sought help from the Bumbaran local government and the military, and they also also asked for a permanent military detachment there, but the requests were not acted upon.
He said there was a Cafgu outpost there but this was vacated in 2006.
Palacio noted that while the two affected villages are part of Bumbaran, residents have been seeking assistance in his barangay.
The police reported that Friday’s fighting lasted until 6 p.m.
Cuaresma said the two groups of armed men have ceased firing but the Bukidnon police, stationed in Dominorog village proper are monitoring and guarding the area.
He said they have yet to verify the armed groups’ affiliations.
Cuaresma cited the challenge in monitoring the situation in the clash site because of the lack of mobile phone signal.
“We will wait for our local contact to come down and provide updates,” he added.
Duran told MindaNews they could not go to the area as it is already in the area of responsibility of the Lanao del Sur police, which belongs to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
OIC ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said he will have the matter checked.
Col. Canilo Fuentes, Bukidnon police deputy director, said the police have posted standby troops in Dominorog in case the alleged bandits enter the Bukidnon area of responsibility.
Lt. Col. Jose Maria Cuerpo, chief of the 8th Infantry Battalion, said the incident is a police matter but as of 9 a.m. Sunday, troops were deployed to the area to check. At 3 p.m., Cuerpo still could not provide updates on the incident.
Francisco Mabaso Jr, coordinator of the People Power Volunteers for Reform, said they have reported the incident to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
“We were worried of the slow action of the authorities on the incident, he said. Mabaso’s office is assisting the Department of Social Welfare and Development in enlisting indigenous peoples to the government’s conditional cash transfer program. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)