COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 18 April) – A series of gunfire in the rido-ridden municipality of Malabang in Lanao del Sur late Sunday until the wee hours of the morning have scared residents, disrupting people’s sleep, reports said.
But officials of the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Elections could not say if the series of gunfire that started around 9 p.m. Sunday until 2 a.m. Monday at Barangay Chinatown (poblacion area) was election-related or due to the rido as no witnesses have so far come out.
Brig. Arthur Cabalona, PNP regional director for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Regional for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said in an interview over iNews Philippines that no one was reported injured in the “burst of gunfire,” which he said was due to “indiscriminate firing” and not a shootout.
The Comelec has placed Malabang under its control two weeks ago because of the intense rivalry between two big political clans, said municipal election officer Abdul Jabbar Noor.
The rivalry is between the Macapodi family, led by incumbent Mayor Mohamad Yahya B. Macapodi, and the Balindongs. Both families have fielded candidates in the municipality’s top two posts in next month’s elections.
For mayor, it is a clash between Alinader Mariam Balindong (Lakas) and Al-Rashid Boloto Macapodi (PDP-Laban). For vice mayor, the outgoing mayor (Mohamad Yahya B. Macapodi) is being challenged by Raizoli Sarip Balindong.
Noor said he could not categorically say that the burst of gunfire was election-related because of the existing rido. He promised to conduct investigations.
He said he has deployed three units from the PNP’s Special Action Force consisting of 35 personnel aside from the various troops from the military and the police.
“We have installed checkpoints and conduct joint roving operation at night. We can promise residents that we are doing our best to keep Malabang secure,” Noor noted.
He said they have conducted a series of peace covenants and a peace summit involving the candidates.
Cabalona said his initial assessment was that whoever did the firing wanted to instill fear among residents. He said they cannot say it was due to rido because they do not have a suspect and no one was reported injured.
“Probably these people just want to establish fear whatever their intention is,” he added. (Ferdinandh B. Cabrera / MindaNews)