PPOC pushes interfaith enhancement amid BIFF threats

Written by Ali G. Macabalang, Manila Bulletin.

Leaders of civilian, police and military sectors recently assembled the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Maguindanao, and mapped out measures to strengthen cohesive strides in the face of continued threats from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) against both state security forces and even non-combatant communities.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, PPOC chairman, convened the special meeting last week in Buluan town, following persistent reports that some civilian residents were bracing to take up firearms to defend themselves from BIFF attacks, it was learned Saturday.

A family of Visayan peasants aboard a Carabao-pulled far cart waives gleefully at a convoy of journalists that toured Christian villages in Maguindanao after the conduct of the special provincial peace and order council (PPOC) meeting in Buluan town on Jan. 5. (Ali G. Macabalang)

 

A family of Visayans aboard a Carabao-pulled cart waives gleefully at a convoy of journalists that toured Christian villages in Maguindanao after the special provincial peace and order council (PPOC) meeting in Buluan town on Jan. 5. (Photo courtesy of Ali G. Macabalang)

Members of the PPOC secretariat said the governor alongside local police and military brasses received suggestions at the meeting for continuous conduct of interfaith-building dialogues in strategic areas of Maguindanao where civilian residents had reportedly sounded off intention to put up armed reprisals against BIFF militants.

 

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the Maguindanao-based Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID), had earlier told reporters that military and police authorities would not allow arming of civilians as in the case of the Martial Law-backed cultist Ilaga movement because such option could only lead to “nothing but more trouble.”

 

Mangudadatu and Pangilinan personally visited barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town on Dec. 29, and distributed relief assistance to majority Christian residents facing the brunt of BIFF threats. The governor also handed cash assistance to families of six Visayan peasants killed in a BIFF attack in the village on Dec. 24.

 

Both officials dialogued with the village residents to dissuade them from taking up arms. Some local reporters earlier reported that a number of Christian residents in the village and other BIFF-threatened communities in Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato had shown to them samples of firearms they would use to fight the jihadist rebel group.

 

BIFF militants raided a village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato and killed a Visayan elected barangay councilman on Dec. 27, three days after killing three non-Muslim farmers in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat in another attack on Dec. 24.

 

Pigacawayan and Esperanza towns were among areas in Central Mindanao where the Ilaga cultist movement drew several members.

 

An elected councilman of barangay Tibao in M’lang, North Cotabato was earlier reported as confirming their efforts to take up arms anew. But the village official recanted his statement in a meeting with M’lang Mayor Joselito Piñol and Gen. Pangilian on Dec. 29, saying he thought that the attack on his village on Dec. 26 was BIFF-related.

 

Mayor Piñol and his town police chief explained that the Dec. 26 fighting at barangay Tibao involved Visayan settlers and Moro farmers over a long-standing land dispute.

 

During the PPOC meeting in Buluan town Tuesday, Gov. Mangudadatu and Senior Supt. Nickson Muksan, provincial police director of Maguindanao, alongside stakeholders from various local sectors agreed for the intensification of interfaith dialogues among Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities in the province.

 

“Our tri-people (Muslims, Christians and Lumads) should sustain interfaith cordiality as a potent force to rebel efforts by BIFF rebels and other peace spoilers,” the PPOC secretariat cited Gov. Mangudadatu as telling the meeting.

Source: Manila Bulletin