Philippines – While all eyes are glued on the massive flooding spawned by monsoon rains in Metro Manila and nearby provinces, thousands of people in at least five towns in Maguindanao were also forced to flee their homes due to clashes between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) fighters.
The gunfight have already displaced 25,640 residents of Maguindanao.
A report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) revealed that four soldiers and four BIFM fighters were already in the fatality list while scores were reportedly wounded in the series of gun battles.
The firefight stemmed from the series of harassments launched by the BIFM on several military detachments in Maguindanao starting Sunday night up to early morning of Monday.
Armed with chainsaws, some of the BIFM fighters also cut off the electric posts along the national highway that connects Cotabato City to General Santos City that caused power outage to at least 11 towns in Maguindanao.
Some 1,000 trapped villagers in one of the affected towns in Maguindanao appealed for a brief ceasefire, even for two hours, so they can seek refuge in safer grounds, a social welfare official said Wednesday.
“They are asking for a ceasefire so they can come down“ and be housed in evacuation center, Hadja Pombaen Karon-Kader, told reporters, referring to the villagers stranded on a hill in Datu Unsay town where members of BIFM launched their rampage.
Kader, assistant secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, relayed the plea to higher officials including ARMM caretaker Mujiv Hataman, who conducted assessment on the plight of evacuees in 11 evacuation centers.
Hataman and other higher authorities were reportedly looking into the villagers’ plight and call for ceasefire, taking into consideration the defiant stance of BIFM leader Ameril Umbra Kato.
Additional police and military forces were already deployed in affected areas in Maguindanao to drive away the BIFM fighters reportedly numbering to some 300 armed men. (Aaron Recuenco, Ali G. Macabalang)