AROUND 15,000 individuals have been displaced following clashes between Moro armed groups in the boundary of North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces.
The growing tension between forces of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) — a result of a longtime rivalry by their respective leaders — affected the villages of Kabasalan, Barongis, Buliok, Bago Inged, Bulol and Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato. The clashes forced around 1,800 families and 1,200 families out of their homes in the villages of Kalbugan and Buliok, respectively, in the nearby Pagalungan town in Maguindanao.
Tahira Kalantongan, the municipal disaster chief of Pikit, said the number of the displaced might increase, noting the continued evacuation of civilians on Tuesday.
Kalatongan described the affected villages as “silent,” adding a number of houses in some of the affected villages were burned down by armed men.
The fighting, that started only a few days after the Mamasapano carnage on January 25, is between an MILF force led by Jack Abbas and a BIFF group led by Kagi Karialan.
Gov. Emmylou Mendoza of North Cotabato earlier said the fighting between Abbas and Karialan is personal and has nothing to do with the bloody killing of the 44 members of the Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano.
She also belied allegations she was funding the local MILF group of Abbas to prevent the BIFF from entering the province.
“The MILF and BIFF quarrel in Pikit is a personal matter between them. My administration is simply committed to ensure that the hapless civilians and the rest of the peace loving people of Pikit are secured and not caught in the middle or worse, become spoils or collaterals,” she added.