Maguindanao evacuees to gov’t: Stop military operations if you can’t help us

Evacuees from Maguindanao line up for relief assistance in Macasendig, Pikit, North Cotabato on August 6, 2019. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

PIKIT, North Cotabato (MindaNews/07 August) – Evacuees from Dasawao in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town in Maguindanao who sought shelter in Barangay Macasendig here have decided to return to their homes despite the risks, saying government assistance did not reach them.

Mothers from Dasawao sector 4 on Tuesday told MindaNews that relief items were not given to the real evacuees. They dismantled their tents and said they were returning home even if the situation in their place had remained volatile.

“We are the real evacuees here, how come we couldn’t get what the government has extended to us? If the government cannot manage to take care of displaced residents, then they should stop the war in our village and we will go back home,” said a woman in her 40s who refused to be identified.

Tehera Kalantungan, head of the Municipal Risk Reduction and Management Office of Pikit acknowledged the lapses during the distribution and promised to attend to it.

Naguib Sinarimbo, Interior and Local Government Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Tuesday faced the leaders of the aggrieved evacuees in Macasendig and gave them relief goods.

Macasendig voted to be included in BARMM during the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Law in January this year.

Sinarimbo, who also heads the Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence-BARMM, said the evacuees who received assistance on Tuesday mostly came from Dasawao.

Over 1,500 residents from Sultan sa Barongis and Shariff Saydona Mustapha of Maguindanao and Barangays Kabasalan and Paidu Pulangi in Pikit fled their homes after the Joint Task-Force Central of the 6th Infantry Division launched an offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Nine hundred fifty-five displaced individuals went to Macasendig and 543 others to Dasawao.

Evacuees from Maguindanao live in makeshift shelters outside a mosque in Macasendig, Pikit, North Cotabato. August 6, 2019. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Badria Sulayman, a mother of eight, said the children were forced to jump into the river for safety as the military’s aerial strike hit their village. She said she’s just thankful that her family is safe.

The military offensive began on July 25.

Last week, a forum was held in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao where displaced residents appealed to the regional government to address their plight as pointed out in its 10-point agenda.

Most of the evacuees came from the so-called SPMS box in Liguasan Marsh, which refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi Ampatuan), Mamasapano and Datu Salibo. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera/MindaNews)