ABOUT 15,000 individuals were forced to leave their homes in the outskirt villages of Pikit in North Cotabato and Pagalungan in Maguindanao following the growing tension between forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Bangamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
In Noth Cotabato, the affected villages are Kabasalan, Barongis, Buliok, Bago Inged, Bulol and Rajamuda in Pikit, North Cotabato with 1,800 displaced families. In Maguindanao, at least 1,200 families also left their homes from the villages of Kalbugan and Buliok in the nearby Pagalungan town.
The fighting was brought by the rivalry between MILF leader Jack Abbas and BIFF leader Kagi Karialan.
Tahira Kalantongan, the municipal disaster chief of Pikit, said the number might increase, noting the continued evacuation of civilians Tuesday.
Kalatongan described the affected villages as “silent,” adding a number of houses in some of the affected villages were burned down by armed men.
North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza has earlier said the fighting between Abbas and Karialan is personal and has nothing to do with the bloody botched operation of Special Action Force of the Philippine National Police in Barangay Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.
She also belied the allegation that she was funding the local MILF group of Abbas to prevent the BIFF from entering the province.
“I can’t help but wonder that people put malice in what I do and accused me of something else,” she said in a statement.
“The MILF and BIFF quarrel in Pikit is a personal matter between them. My administration is simply committed to ensure that the hapless civilians and the rest of the peace loving people of Pikit are secured and not caught in the middle or worse, become spoils or collaterals.”
| All photos by Myrna Jo Henry of ARMM Heart | JMT, NewsDesk