Normalcy returns to NorCot town plundered by BIFF PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 September 2013 13:07

Tension has waned in several barangays in North Cotabato’s Midsayap town some 300 bandits attacked Monday, but evacuees are reluctant to return home fearing they can comeback to raid anytime and plunder their villages yet again.

Residents displaced by the bloody incursions by the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are now confined in evacuation sites put up by workers led by Midsayap Mayor Romeo Araña and North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Lala Taliño-Mendoza.

Mendoza has called on residents of North Cotabato’s adjoining Midsayap, Pikit and Aleosan towns, whose isolated barangays along the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Marsh the BIFF has lately been attacking often, to be vigilant and to immediately report to the police, or the military any sighting of bandits in their villages.

Mendoza said all of the teachers held by the bandits who laid siege on four villages in Midsayap from Monday morning until Tuesday dawn are now undergoing psycho-social debriefing by experts from the social welfare and education departments.

Talks among local folks and text messages have been circulating since Tuesday in Midsayap purporting that the bandits had threatened to return and harm the teachers they used as human shields if they reveal to the media their ordeal in the hands of their captors.

A local TV outfit had shown in an afternoon news telecast last Tuesday a male teacher, from among the nine, whom the bandits held for more than 10 hours, as explaining on camera that, on the contrary, they were merely prevented from leaving for fear they could be trapped in the crossfire, which erupted when government forces counter-attacked.

Mendoza has called on Midsayap’s mixed Muslim and Christian folks to remain calm and instead focus on how to cooperate in restoring normalcy in the villages the bandits attacked.

Mendoza said one of the concerns of the provincial peace and order council now is the plight of hundreds of grade school pupils and high school students dislocated by Monday’s hostilities.

Mendoza said a crisis management committee comprised of representatives of the provincial government and the office of Midsayap’s municipal mayor are now attending to the needs of the evacuees.

The local government of Midsayap reported Wednesday that the hostilities dislocated 2,097 families, whose heads rely mainly on rice and corn farming as main sources of income.

Dozens of residents have also been dislocated by the hostilities in Tuesday’s attack by BIFF bandits on a Cavendish banana plantation in Tulunan town in the second district of North Cotabato.

The spokesman of BIFF, Abu Misry Mama, admitted over Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City that their forces were responsible for the harassment of security guards at the plantation, owned by the Del Monte Philippines, in Barangay Dungos in Tulunan.

Inspector Rolando Dillera, chief of the Tulunan municipal police, said the hostilities at the northwestern part of the banana farm erupted when the bandits, led by Sukarno Husain and Burudi Sultan, fired assault rifles and 40 MM shoulder-fire grenades at security guards.

Hussain and Sultan, both implicated in heinous offenses, including armed robbery, multiple murders, and cattle theft, are henchmen of Kato, chieftain of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Dillera said the plantation guards, although outnumbered, managed to outflank the bandits, forcing them to retreat to a swampy area north of the scene of the encounter after a 30-minute running firefight.

Another group of bandits engaged in a brief firefight responding policemen from the Tulunan municipal police office and from nearby Mlang town, which is near the banana plantation.

Local officials said the bandits scampered away bringing four wounded companions after sensing that more policemen and soldiers have arrived to help drive them away.

Mendoza has ordered the provincial police to deploy more policemen in Tulunan to prevent a repeat of the incident.