Cops nab 75 persons for burning of houses in South Cotabato town

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 6 July) — Police rounded up 75 persons, including a former councilor of General Santos City, for alleged harassment and burning of at least 20 houses in the remote village of Basag in T’boli, South Cotabato, an official said Monday.

Colonel Jemuel Siason, South Cotabato police director, said the sheer number of those apprehended Sunday morning could not fit the police station’s detention facility.

They stayed overnight at the premises of the municipal police station for questioning, he added.

According to Siason, the incident that resulted to the injury of an unidentified person stemmed from a long-standing land conflict there.

The official said the perpetrators, who were armed with firearms and bladed weapons, are all from General Santos City.

The suspects reportedly fired their guns in the air and burned the houses owned by several families belonging to the T’boli tribe.

Siason said some of those apprehended expressed willingness to cooperate and be witnesses.

Citing initial investigation, Siason told MindaNews that some of those apprehended tagged Minda Atendido, 73, as the one who allegedly ordered the demolition.

Atendido was a former councilor of General Santos City and chairperson of Barangay Sinawal, the city’s border with Barangay Basag. She was among those apprehended.

In a radio interview, Atendido said she has been paying rent and taxes to the government involving 150 hectares of the disputed land.

She added they have sought the help of the Tboli local government to help settle the land conflict.

Also among those “invited for questioning” was Atendido’s son Richard, an incumbent councilor in General Santos City, Siason said.

Siason said that the T’boli police station was set to inquest Atendido and several others for arson, harassment and illegal demolition anytime today, Monday.