KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 17 February) — The spate of killings in Pikit, North Cotabato was not due to a “religious conflict” between Muslims and Christians,” Bangsamoro Interim Chief Minister Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim said.
This developed as more security forces were deployed to the troubled town with the local government unit (LGU) offering a bounty for information leading to the arrest of the suspects.
Ebrahim belied that there is a war of retaliation between Christians and Muslim in Pikit, a first class municipality with a population of around 165,000 (2020 census).
“Ang nangyayari diyan, parang pinapalabas na it is (a war) between Muslim and Christians,” Ebrahim, also the chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said in a press briefing on Wednesday in Cotabato City.
He noted that they wanted to avoid what happened in the late 1960s where Muslims and Christians were involved in deadly retaliations.
Ebrahim said he already met the LGUs and the security sector to avert the situation from going out of bounds or return to the late 1960s where Christians and Muslims killed each other in apparent retaliation.
He recalled the violence in the area during the 1960s “was triggered by the Manili Massacre,” where some 70 Muslim Moros, including women and children, were killed inside a mosque in Carmen, North Cotabato by Christian militiamen.
While he noted the conflict between Muslims and Christians in the 1960s stuck to the public mind, he asserted that it was not a religious war.
Ebrahim said they are now in the process of “finally addressing the problem in Pikit.”
On Thursday, Justine Abalon, 15, was shot by still unknown suspects while tending their store in Barangay Fort Pikit. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.
Shortly after, farmer Lopez Guiama, 42, a resident of Barangay Balongis, Pikit, was also shot in Barangay Fort Pikit. He was brought to a local hospital and reportedly in critical condition.
On Tuesday, Fahad Dilabuan Guiamalon, 13, a junior high school student, was also killed while his two other minor companions were injured during a gun attack in Pikit.
Since September last year, the local media reported at least 30 killings in Pikit, all of them remain unresolved.
Pikit Mayor Sumulong Sultan said they traced a video of the suspects riding in motorcycles in Thursday’s two gun attacks.
Sultan said the LGU would give an unspecified monetary reward to information leading to the suspects’ arrest.
Citing information from barangay officials, Sultan also disputed claims that there is a religious war between Muslims and Christians in his town.
Col. Harold Ramos, North Cotabato provincial police commander, said Friday that additional police and military forces have been deployed to Pikit to beef up security in the area.
He added that they are already preparing the criminal cases against the suspects traced through security cameras.
Pikit officially belongs to North Cotabato. However, it lost 22 of its 42 villages after they voted for inclusion to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao during the plebiscite in 2019.
The villages that opted for inclusion are now part of the so-called Bangsamoro Special Geographic Area (SGA), where many of the killings reportedly happened.
A total of 63 villages from six towns in North Cotabato are part of the SGA.
Last November, the Bangsamoro government created Task Force Reconciliation to address the spate of killings in Pikit town. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)