SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: The Buldon police in Maguindanao launched a massive search for Islamic militants at the town border and Mount Cararao in Lanao del Sur for almost 24 hours but found none.
Earlier in Davao City, President Rodrigo Duterte announced the possible spread of the conflict in Marawi City to the rest of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) particularly in Buldon.
The ethnic Iranun who are the majority of the inhabitants of Buldon including the police and military were surprised with the President’s announcement on Saturday.
Buldon, a hinterland town in the first district of Maguindanao, with its mayor Abolais Manalao went to the extent of urging the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team and the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help them prove there is not even a single Maute terrorist in their municipality.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu vouched for the leadership of Manalao, saying he is in full control of the entire municipality of Buldon.
The governor said he has even tapped the Islamic religious sector in Buldon to help prove to the President that there are no Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists in the area.
“We respect and we do not begrudge President Duterte for having announced there are sightings of militants in Buldon. We take that pronouncement as a reminder for us to help him address terrorism and violent religious extremism in Mindanao,” he added.
The Army’s 6th Infantry Division announced on Saturday over radio stations in Cotabato City that there is no confirmed presence of any group in Buldon operating in the style of IS.
Major Gen. Arnel de la Vega, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, said the 37th Infantry Battalion, which covers all barangay (villages) in Buldon, has not reported anything about sightings of terrorists in the municipality.
Even members of Buldon municipal peace and order council said it is impossible for them not to detect the presence of any threat group now that all rido or clan wars involving Iranun families have been settled amicably.
Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO)-ARMM, said all clans who have been engaged in rido are now cooperating in maintaining law and order in the municipality.
Similarly, the local MILF commanders said there could be Maute gunmen on high ground at Mount Cararao, but none in Buldon.
Mount Cararao is closer to Butig town in Lanao del Sur where the Maute terror group first emerged in 2014.
Hundreds of Iranun villagers in Buldon, led by village chiefs, helped in Saturday’s search by the local police for terrorists at the border but also found none.
Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, Maguindanao provincial police director, said Buldon police will conduct periodic searches to prevent incursion by Maute terrorists.
On December 8 last year, MILF rebels led by Commander Quiqada killed five Maute gunmen and wounded more than a dozen others for trying to bring into Buldon militants wounded in a gunfight with pursuing soldiers in Butig.
Butig, located in the first district of Lanao del Sur, is hometown of the siblings Omar and Abdullah Maute, founders of the Maute terror group.