COTABATO CITY: Several hundreds of aggrieved villagers displaced by last Saturday’s harassment by armed supporters of defeated candidates of a seaside barangay in the town of Datu Blah Sinsuat, Maguindanao province, have asked the Philippine Marine Corps for the immediate posting of a detachment in the area to defuse the brewing tension and to prevent a repeat of the incident.
Gunmen fired upon at houses and beat the 18-year-old son of a village leader, Norodin Solaiman, who campaigned for reelected Mayor Marcial Sinsuat of Datu Blah Sinsuat.
Sinsuat won a second term in the May 13 polls, defeating a cousin, Datu Manawut, who hails from Barangay Resa in the same coastal municipality.
The displaced villagers are urging the Marines to immediately install a security detachment in the area to deter more attacks by the same group.
The evacuees are staying at a school building and houses of relatives in Lower Tambak, which is accessible to the police and combatants of the 1st Marine Battalion Landing Team, which has jurisdiction over Datu Blah Sinsuat’s 11 seaside barangays.
Investigators from the Philippine National Police are also looking into reports by the evacuees that three sons of their former barangay chairman, whose family supported opposition candidates during the May 13 local polls, provided “guides” that led the gunmen to the houses they strafed.
Sources said that the same group reportedly first harassed civilians just before the elections and threatened to return if they would not vote for their “favored candidates” for local elective positions.
Sinsuat emphasized he would have Saturday’s attack investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
The suspects also arbitrarily held a villager as hostage and used him as guide in their escape toward a nearby hinterland after the shooting incident
The reelected mayor confirmed that villagers have urged him to convince the First Marine Brigade, based in Kalamansig town in Sultan Kudarat province, and its component battalion, the Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, to immediately put up a detachment in Barangay Tambak.
As this developed, Sinsuat said he will convene this week the interagency, multisectoral Municipal Peace and Order Council to discuss solutions to the security problems now besetting the coastal Barangay Tambak.