KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 9 May)– The vice mayor of Datu Paglas town in Maguindanao and a member of the provincial board of Maguindanao condemned the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) for what they said was an act of terrorism in Datu Paglas town on Saturday morning.
Datu Paglas Vice Mayor Mohamad Paglas Sr. said the BIFF members under the Karialan faction were monitored to have entered the town Friday night.
“We are saddened by this incident because our place is very peaceful,” he said in an interview aired over Brigada.
Paglas, who previously served as town mayor, said authorities closed the national highway to ensure the safety of travelers, stranding hundreds of commuters.
The highway is a vital road used by people from Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces to go to Davao City and North Cotabato, or vice versa.
Citing intelligence reports, the vice mayor added that BIFF leader Kagui Karialan rendezvoused with his right hand man, who lives in the town.
Armed clash in Datu Paglas averted by talk between mayor and BIFF leader
At least 20 members of the BIFF under the Karialan faction were sighted in the market of Datu Paglas town in at daybreak Saturday, causing tension in the area and the closure of a portion of the North Cotabato-Maguindanao highway, but armed confrontation was averted following a talk between the town mayor and the group’s leader.
The vice mayor said at least a hundred BIFF members were in town.
Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said the group left the area after the military’s explosive ordnance team dismantled four improvised explosive devices planted in strategic areas before reaching the town. Baldomar said it was part of the BIFF’s tactical defense to prevent the military from getting closer to them.
Baldomar said the tension eased after the group’s leader and the mayor of Datu Paglas town, Abubakar Paglas, talked. The mayor is a Datu while the BIFF leader, is reportedly a former Sangguniang Kabataan chair in the town.
The armed group left the market after the mayor spoke with its leader.
By 1:30 p.m. the closed portion of the highway was reopened.
In a statement, Provincial Board Member King Mangudadatu said he “cannot help but feel despair over the possible implications of this latest incident pertaining to the general peace and order situation in our province, our region, and Mindanao as a whole.”
“No rhyme or reason will ever justify the fact that the observance by the people of the holy month of Ramadan was willfully and deliberately tarnished with terror and violence by people whom, I believe, also call on the name of the same Providence being worshipped and prayed upon by the people of Datu Paglas municipality,” Mangudadatu said.
He called on the people to rally behind peace and development and not allow a Zamboanga and Marawi siege to happen in the province.
Datu Paglas town has been generally peaceful since the 1990s, following the entry of the banana industry that provided livelihood to the locals.
In the 1970s, Datu Paglas was a hotbed of the Moro rebellion and commuters avoided traveling its roads due to highway robbery, especially during night time.
The town adopted the slogan “Bawal ang Tamad sa Datu Paglas” during the mayoralty of Ibrahim “Toto” Paglas in the 1990s. It was also during his term when a banana plantation was established, employing former combatants of the Moro liberation fronts.
The bananas being produced in the town are shipped mainly to foreign markets. (Bong Sarmiento with a report from Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)