MLANG, North Cotabato: Authorities on Wednesday clarified reports that the recent attack in barangay Tibao here was a renewed skirmish between Moro residents and mixed Ilonggo and other Visayan settlers fighting over land ownership.
Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, with officials of the 602nd Infantry Brigade also belied reports that the recent attack against Ilonggo farmers in a remote village here was a handiwork of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Similarly, Mayor Joselito Piñol and Mlang police chief Supt. Joffrey Todeño said the assault was a result of long-existing land conflict in the area and the BIFF has no hand in it.
The attack in Barangay Tibao in December 26 allegedly staged by the BIFF resulted to the wounding of Nolly Tongcua, barangay tanod Sonny Catague and Jomar Magarso, a civilian volunteer of the paramilitary unit.
The report said civilians mostly Ilonggo farmers were arming themselves to fight against the BIFF.
The incident occurred the same day the BIFF were rampaging in other villages in North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces that claimed 13 lives, eight of them were civilians that sowed fear among residents in Central Mindanao.
“We’ve evaluated the situation and seen that it was not a handiwork of BIFF as per earlier reports but a long-existing land conflict in the area,” Piñol said.
He said involved in the 10 to 20 hectares disputed land were Moro tribesmen headed by Ustadz Alimodin and mixed Ilonggo and other Visayan settlers.
“We are trying to settle it through negotiations,” he said.
He said the conflict has been resolved in 1996 through signed agreements and they would like to revive the pact.
“There was also no truth about reports that there were civilians arming themselves against the BIFF,” he said.
“The local government of Mlang, the police and the army are still in control over the area,” Piñol added.
Earlier reports quoted Armando Tongcua, barangay chairman of Tibao as saying that civilians have started arming themselves to protect their properties from possible attacks by the BIFF.
Tongcua recanted his statement before a press conference saying he was carried away by emotion when he issued the statement.