COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) – Private armed groups of politicians once tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte in his drugs watch list were locked into a fierce gunfight in an election related violence in Sultan Sumagka (formerly Talitay), Maguindanao during the transmission of votes Tuesday.
Maj. Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the clash occurred around 10 a.m. and lasted until noon in Sitio Sultan, Barangay Kilalan in Talitay.
“The intense firefight lasted 10 minutes but followed by intermittent single fires until noon time,” he said.
The groups involved were men of the brothers Abdulwahab and Montasir Sabal, who both won as mayor and vice mayor of Talitay, respectively, and those of Sedik Ameril, former assemblyman of the abolished Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The Sabals’ group of armed men was reportedly led by a certain “Kalbo” while that of Ameril was led by Mike Sitti.
Despite the exchange of fire, no one was hurt or killed but forced some civilians to evacuate to safer places, Encinas said.
The military pacified the situation and warned both sides that they will bombard the warring groups with mortars if they won’t stop.
When troops of the 90th Infantry Battalion arrived in the area and threatened to arrest armed men, both groups reportedly fled towards their respective havens in the Liguasan Marsh, noted Encinas.
The soldiers then secured the election paraphernalia.
Montasir, the elder brother, was the elected mayor in 2016 while Abdulwahab was his vice mayor. But both brothers went into hiding when they were included in the narco list. Abdulwahab later resurfaced and cleared his name, and thus succeeded his brother on the vacated mayoral post.
Ameril was also in the narco list, the reason why he is also in hiding.
Encinas said that what apparently triggered the feud is rooted on an unfulfilled agreement between Abdulwahab and Sedik.
Both parties, he said, agreed that to establish a harmonious relationship between them, Abdulwahab must junk Montasir so Ameril’s sister Suraida would win in the vice mayoral race in Talitay.
Encinas said that based on information they gathered in their investigation, the Sabal brothers dumped Suraida in the last minute. Abdulwahab thus backed his elder brother despite the funds contributed by Sedik to the younger Sabal’s campaign.
Montasir garnered 2,350 votes in the vice mayoral race, while Suraida Ameril was only in third place with 1,537 votes. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)