Mangudadatus, armed villagers clash in Maguindanao town
A ROAD construction connecting the towns of Buluan in Maguindanao and Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat had revived the old wound of animosity between armed followers, known locally as Buaya sa Lanao (meaning crocodiles of the lake) of the brothers of Maguindanao Governor Toto Mangudadatu and armed villagers, some of whom are identified with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
According to the MILF site the upsurge of fighting could have been avoided had those in the side of Buluan Mayor Ibrahim Mangudadatu considered the plea of the residents not to traverse the areas where the armed villagers have occupied and owned since time immemorial and where they are peacefully tending their farms to this day.
He said that Governor Toto Mangudadatu had tried to intervene to stop the fighting but some of his brothers were cold to the idea, reportedly due to their desire to settle old scores with the armed men, some of whom are commanders or fighters of the MILF.
Governor Toto must show his leadership here, otherwise, the conflict would go on and on, he stressed.
He disclosed that some 100 or so persons were killed or had disappeared since the late 80s when Datu Pua Mangudadatu, the father of the incumbent Maguindanao governor, became the mayor of Buluan, and the suspects were traceable to his armed followers. Up to this day, no cases were filed nor has justice been rendered to the victims.
The Mangudadatus is one of the remaining powerful clans in Mindanao, having two provincial governors, one congressman, several town mayors, assemblymen, board members, as well as town vice mayors, councilors, etc. They also own huge Tilapia fishponds and fish cages in Buluan Lake, a helicopter, and at least one 10-seater plane.
In the latest round of fighting, one MILF fighter was martyred; and at least four on the Mangudadatus including Pandag municipal councilor Malkal Manandang alias Cobra were injured or slain.
The MILF defenders used sniper rifles to pin down the attackers.
The encounters mainly occurred in the village of Tenok in Mangudadatu town, resulting in some villagers fleeing their homes for fear that they will be caught in the crossfire.
The first encounter was on February 26, and the second on 27.
The villages of Kalian and Daladagan, both of Mangudadatu town, and nearby villages of Digal and Poblacion of Buluan town were the most affected areas.