Feuding NorthCot MILF, MNLF groups reconcile PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 24 August 2013 14:34

Guns are silent for five days days now in Barangay Marbel in Matalam, North Cotabato following Tuesday’s reconciliation of feuding Moro guerrilla factions whose squabbles for control of the area the past three months dislocated more than 5,000 villagers.

The settlement of the conflict between the groups of Datu Dima Ambil, the most senior leader of of the Moro National Liberation Front in North Cotabato, and Noa Sabel of the 108th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was capped with a “kanduli,” a traditional Moro thanksgiving banquet jointly organized by Matalam Mayor Oscar Valdeviezo and North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.

Sr. Supt. Danilo Peralta, director of the North Cotabato provincial police, said the two groups agreed to “bury their hatchets” and reposition their combatants away from the contested lands in Barangay Marbel and surrounding areas through the intercession of Matalam’s incumbent town mayor and Mendoza.

The reconciliation rite was held in nearby Pagalungan town in Maguindanao, which both groups considered a neutral ground and as courtesy to the Matalam clan in the province, whose leaders helped Mendoza settle the conflict amicably.

Pagalungan, which is under the second district of Maguindanao, is an ancestral stronghold of the influential Matalam family.

Ambil, who is chairman of the MNLF’s Utara Kutawato State Committee, and many senior commanders of the MILF’s 108th base command are related both by blood and by affinity to the Matalams.

Mendoza, Valdeviezo, the provincial police office and the Army’s 602nd Brigade first attempted to broker an interim truce between the two groups in late May 2013, but the accord failed to take off due to lack of provisions on now both sides can prevent undue hostilities while efforts to iron out a lasting settlement were underway.

The hostilities between the two groups began shortly before the May 13 elections when Ambil and his men prevented members of the MILF from entering Barangay Marbel, a government-recognized MNLF “peace zone,.” with their guns and in their uniforms to attend a forum on the Mindanao peace process.

“We did not want them to carry guns in our territory because it is a peace zone and we have an existing peace accord with the government, the 1996 government-MNLF peace agreement, and there was a nationwide election ban on carrying of firearms at that time,” Ambil said.

The misunderstanding between the MILF and MNLF forces sparked a series of encounters that sent more than 5,000 villagers fleeing for their lives.

Mendoza, in an emailed statement, said she was elated the feuding groups have finally agreed to reconcile in the presence of local officials and representatives of the police and the military, and the joint ceasefire committee.

The ceasefire committee, which is helping oversee the enforcement of the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF, is comprised of representatives from the rebel group, the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.

Sabel and other leaders of the MILF that occupied strategic areas in Barangay Marbel have assured Mendoza and Valdeviezo they will religiously reposition their followers away from the area to pave the way for the restoration of normalcy among local Moro and Christian communities.