Peace back in NorthCot village disrupted by MILF-MNLF clashes

MATALAM, North Cotabato (MindaNews/07 May)—A peacekeeping force jointly composed of Army and police personnel was deployed at Barangay Marbel here after the situation returned to normal Monday, an official said.

Members of the International Monitoring Team arrived in the village Monday to pacify the situation after clashes erupted Sunday night between elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Senior Insp. Elias Dandan, municipal police chief, said Monday it is now safe for the estimated 3,000 individuals who evacuated to return to the village.

“The area is now back to normal situation,” he said.

The firefight between the MILF and MNLF fighters lasted until early Monday morning. An MILF combatant was reportedly killed in the firefight with the Marbel River splitting the fighters apart.

Marbel village chief Roxas Balanakan said the gunfight caught the residents by surprise.

“Akala kasi namin di matuloy ang gulo dahil kinakausap ang dalawang panig (We thought trouble would not erupt because there were efforts to pacify the two sides),” he added.

Tension earlier gripped the community when MILF members attempted to conduct an advocacy campaign for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which the MILF and the government signed last October in Malacanang.

The FAB paves the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, the new political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

Resident Sammy Bacana narrated the MILF and MNLF troops failed to reach an agreement for the conduct of a FAB advocacy in the barangay, with the MNLF side insisting the community is its territory.

Dima Ambel, alias Kumander Alladin, state chairman of the MNLF’s Sebangan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee, said the “MILF troops were disrespectful after they carry firearms for what was a peaceful activity in a recognized MNLF community.”

“They know” that under the 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement, Barangay Marbel is an MNLF territory, he said, adding that he could not allow the MILF to control the area.

But Hadji Mansur Imbung, deputy commander of MILF 108th base command and a resident also of the community, said the conflict “really started” after MNLF members allegedly tried to take away the pistol and tied a 16-year old nephew of one of the MILF fighters in the area.

He told MindaNews the MNLF members also demanded that they seek safe conduct passes from them for their activity in the village.

Imbung said the MILF combatants did not wait for the safe conduct passes because they are there “only to educate Christian settlers and other residents about the FAB.”

He said the “same people were behind those who don’t want the FAB in the village and the ones who tried to take away the gun of the boy.” (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)

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