Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Army maintains high alert in Rajah Buayan

KIDAPAWAN CITY - The Army will maintain high visibility in Maguindanao’s politically-troubled Rajah Buayan town even as thousands of evacuees already started returning to their homes following last week’s reconciliation of two armed groups that squabbled for control of patches of arable lands in the area.

The director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, Chief Superintendent Bienvenido Latag, said they will continue monitoring the fragile peace in Rajah Buayan through the Maguindanao provincial police office.

Apparently threatened by a military tactical intervention, two feuding Rajah Buayan barangay chairmen, Duma Ugayan and Jerry Macalay, of Barangays Malipodok and Baital, respectively, swore over the Qur’an last week to end their deep-seated animosity for each other, following a series of encounters between their groups that dislocated more than 3,000 innocent villagers.

Major Gen. Rey Ardo, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said officials of a mechanized brigade that has jurisdiction over Rajah Buayan, and the 45th Infantry Battalion will maintain a peacekeeping contingent in the area to prevent any resumption of hostilities between the two groups.

“Soldiers will also help the ARMM’s social welfare department and the Rajah Buayan local government unit in working out the return of the evacuees to their villages,” Ardo said.

Ugayan and Macalay reconciled in a simple rite before Army officials, representatives of the Maguindanao police, and Raja Buayan’s municipal mayor, Yacob Ampatuan, who was at the forefront of negotiating a solution to end hostilities.

The two barangay chairmen and their respective followers clashed repeatedly over control of strategic patches of lands at the border of their respective barangays,  using assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenades as they tried to overcome each other.

Local officials said the reconciliation of Ugayan and Macalay was hastened by the 6th ID’s discovery that neither of them are members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and can be both, thus, be neutralized by the military without even consulting the government-Moro Islamic Liberation Front joint ceasefire committee.

The government and the MILF have a preliminary security pact where domestic conflicts involving members of the rebel group would have to be settled first by the peace keeping committee, under established protocols stated in the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.

Ardo said the 6th ID is always for the amicable settlement of family feuds in Central Mindanao, but will not hesitate to use force to protect innocent people that can be caught in the crossfire if peaceful means of addressing security constraints turn fruitless.

“When our combatants come into the picture, we can never tell what will happen next. Our men have a sworn duty to protect people, regardless of religion, faith and tribal identities,” said Ardo, who was chairman of the government’s ceasefire committee before he became 6th ID commander in early 2011.
The Philippine Star
February 21, 2012 01:14 P

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