KIDAPAWAN CITY: Amid peace dialogues in North Cotabato, at least three civilians were killed and two policemen were wounded when armed Christian villagers and ethnic Muslims clashed anew over the weekend in Barangay Amas.The fatalities were identified as Bonny Vicente, member of the Amas Barangay Peace Action Team (BFAT), his son Nonoy Kalugmaton and another civilian Ramboy Balimba.
The victims are all Visayan settlers who were attacked by a group of armed Maguindanaon villagers from adjacent Patadon village allegedly avenging the beheading last week of Kenti Matalam-Diagao, 44, a fellow ethnic Muslim farmer.
SPO2 Edwin Maguate and Police Inspector Randy Apostle were also wounded in the firefight at Sitio Nazarette. The latest incident forced the evacuation of 60 families from Christian-dominated Sitio Nazarette and 40 households from the other side Muslim-populated Patadon village.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza did not attend the peace dialogues in Pikit town and Cotabato City as speaker and rushed to Patadon village to pacify the warring groups.
Army officials and rights groups including representatives from the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) panels who were supposed to attend the dialogue in Pikit, also proceeded to Barangay Amas for a meeting with Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista.
During the meeting, Evangelista formed a crisis management committee and made some proposals such as asking the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Office of the President to distribute equally the disputed parcels of DA-owned land at the Central Mindanao Integrated Agricultural Center (CEMIARC) here.
“The creation of crisis committee is looking for quick fix solutions to the rising conflict two farming communities, and we are looking at a sustainable solution to the problem,” Evangelista told The Manila Times.
He said “the Sangguniang Panlalawigan already submitted a letter to President Benigno Aquino 3rd through Department of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to immediately solve the problem.”
Evangelista said the proposal is contained in a Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution passed at the beginning of the land dispute between the Visayan settlers and the ethnic Muslim villagers.
Tension in Barangay Amas escalated after the beheading of Diagao by vigilant Visayan settlers, who reportedly avenged the shooting and wounding of a fellow Antiqueño settler, named as Jerry Eusibio, two days earlier.
Residents have evacuated three times and almost a dozen of casualties were reported due to the land dispute that began late last year.