COTABATO CITY — A spate of sporadic gunfights between two adversarial clans in Talitay town in Maguindanao have displaced no fewer than a thousand villagers.
The conflict involving the group of former Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal and the combined Watamama and Ameril families, all identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), started on March 22.
Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said Friday the evacuees are now in makeshift evacuation sites far from the scenes of the sporadic gunfights between the feuding groups.
Most of the conflict-stricken residents now cramped in squalid shelters that lack toilets and supply of safe drinking water are women and children.
The deep-seated animosity between the two groups started when followers of the former mayor shot dead last March 22 a 16-year-old member of the Watamama family and a companion, also a minor.
The municipal police said the victims were gunned down while fishing in a marsh that connects to the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta.
Relatives of the slain adolescents immediately attacked and vandalized the abandoned residential compound of Sabal in a secluded area in Talitay. The rampage had sent hundreds of villagers running for their lives.
Sabal was elected mayor of Talitay in 2019. The Office of the Ombudsman booted him out of office for violation of the Republic Act 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Baldomar said 6th ID’s commander, Major Gen. Juvymax Uy, had urged the MILF leadership to reconcile the protagonists in the “rido” (clan war) in Talitay.
Most of the displaced Talitay residents are from Barangays Pageda and Gadingan, the site of armed encounters.
Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez, director of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BARMM), said Friday he has directed the Maguindanao provincial police to help traditional community leaders resolve the conflict amicably.
Clan wars or “rido” is one aspect of the complex web of violence in Mindanao. This sporadic conflict between feuding families have long-term consequences on peace and security in the region.