Philippine Daily Inquirer

TEDURAY FOLK FLEE FROM ARMED MEN WHO LOOTED THEIR VILLAGE IN MAGUINDANA­O

- —PHOTO COURTESY OF RADYO BANDERA COTABATO Edwin O. Fernandez @InqNationa­l

COTABATO CITY—More than 1,000 families or about 5,000 individual­s mostly belonging to the indigenous Teduray tribe fled their homes in the interior village of Datu Odin Sinsuat of Maguindana­o del Norte on Friday, when armed men descended on their village and began firing at will.

According to a resident interviewe­d by reporters, the armed men arrived in Sitio Mamaan, Barangay Labungan and started firing at their homes, prompting them to flee.

“Once we evacuated to other communitie­s, they took everything of value that we’ve left behind,” said a resident who asked not to be named for his personal safety.

Tony Ariston, a Teduray, said the armed men arrived in their village on Friday night and started firing indiscrimi­nately.

“That prompted us to evacuate to Labungan Elementary School and some of the gunmen opened fire at us but luckily nobody was hit,” Ariston narrated in a radio interview.

“I don’t know why they harassed us but every time we hear gun bursts, our instinct is to flee quickly,” he said in the vernacular.

He said the sporadic firing lasted until Saturday morning but the armed men fled when government soldiers arrived.

Not the first

The villagers took refuge at Labungan Elementary School since Friday night and were still in the school compound on Sunday, where the provincial government of Maguindana­o del Norte gave them food and nonfood items.

The evacuation was the latest to have happened in the interior villages of Datu Odin Sinsuat because of repeated harassment by private armed groups. Last month, a similar evacuation also occurred in the town’s remote village of Kakar, about 10 to 15 kilometers from Labungan, when the arrival of an armed group in their area also forced people to flee.

Peacekeepe­rs

Col. Ricky Bunayog, deputy commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said they already helped restore normalcy in the affected villages.

The military, however, failed to identify who were behind the armed groups. After a number of families fled Kakar, the military arrived in the area, which sent the armed men to the neighborin­g village of Ambolodto, also of Datu Odin Sinsuat.

As of Monday, the Army has brought the Labungan evacuees back to their homes onboard its six-by-six trucks.

Bunayog said Army and police peacekeepi­ng forces were already deployed in the area to prevent the armed groups from further harassing civilian communitie­s.

At least 10 assorted high-powered firearms were recovered over the weekend, which were left behind by the armed men who were being pursued by government troops.

Police Brig. Gen. Prexy Tanggawohn, police director for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said joint elements of the Datu Odin town police and the provincial police made a reconnaiss­ance patrol around Sitio Kabatayan of Barangay Labungan on Saturday when they found the abandoned firearms.

The firearms found in an abandoned house were an M16 rifle with no serial number, a

Thompson Caliber 45, one Akkan shotgun, an M1 Garand, an M14 rifle, an M16 rifle, three assorted bandolier pouches and 200 rounds of 5.56 ammunition.

“The recovery of these high-powered guns effectivel­y hinders the armed groups from using them,” Tanggawohn said.

Also on Saturday, elements of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry “Makasag” Battalion recovered four other high-powered firearms—one .30-caliber machine gun; two M16 A1; one 40mm M79 grenade launcher, magazines and ammunition—in Barangay Kakar.

Lt. Col. Jerome Peñalosa, 2nd Mechanized Battalion commander, said Army troopers were alerted about the presence in the village of heavily armed men believed to be a private armed group of a local politician.

He said they were conducting clearing operations when they found the armaments.

 ?? ?? FOOD AID Residents of Barangay Labungan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindana­o del Norte, get aid from the local government on Saturday after they were forced to flee their homes because of the presence of armed men who ransacked their village from Friday night until early Saturday.
FOOD AID Residents of Barangay Labungan, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindana­o del Norte, get aid from the local government on Saturday after they were forced to flee their homes because of the presence of armed men who ransacked their village from Friday night until early Saturday.

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