Civil society group says local politics behind Pantar ambush

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews /14 July) – A long-standing political rift was behind the ambush of Army troopers in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte on Monday, an official of a civil society organization here said.

One soldier was killed while seven others were wounded in an ambush along the national highway in Pantar at around 7:40 a.m. Monday. (see related story).

Juanito Enriquez,  managing director of the Civil Society Organization Forum for Peace who rushed to the ambush scene said the conflict was triggered by the rivalry between former Pantar mayor Mohammad Exchan Limbona and Mangondaya Tago, the vice mayor who succeeded him in May 2014.

Enriquez is also among CSOs involved in Bantay Bayanihan and is currently the chair of the press corps in Iligan City.

The rift worsened after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) dismissed Limbona in May last year after his conviction for the killing of former vice mayor Hadji Rashid Onos.

Soldiers were deployed to secure the area following Limbona’s dismissal.

Limbona, who earlier sought traditional settlement for Onos’ killing, denied any involvement in the ambush, a source who requested anonymity told MindaNews.

The dismissed mayor was at the scene of ambush carrying a firearm and talking with other civilians, the same source said.

Goldstar Daily News reported on May 6, 2014 that the DILG ordered the installation of Tago as mayor replacing Limbona who was “dismissed from the service over the killing of another politician.”

The Goldstar report said Limbona was also meted the punishment of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government by the Office of the Ombudsman, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

The report added that Limbona was convicted in connection with the July 3, 2007 killing of Onos by a group that, authorities said, included Limbona, then a barangay chair. (MindaNews)