BIFF has message to Pres. Duterte after attacking N. Cotabato village

Mindanao Armed Conflict  • Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:20 PM  •  99   0
By Edwin O. Fernandez
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Government forces rush to Malagakit village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato after the BIFF attack the Muslim-Christian community's militia base Wednesday. (Photo by Valerie Lambo/Mindanao Cross)
Government forces rush to Malagakit village in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato after the BIFF attack the Muslim-Christian community's militia base Wednesday. (Photo by Valerie Lambo/Mindanao Cross)
PIGCAWAYAN, North Cotabato -- Aside from attacking a militia base, taking hostage 31 Muslim and Christian residents, ransacking stores, looting residences and desecrating a Catholic chapel, the BIFF also littered the Malagakit Elementary School with messages to President Duterte.  

The parish priest of Pigcawayan was so frustrated the San Jose chapel in Barangay Malagakit was not spared by the gunmen.  

“Malagakit chapel was devastated after the BIFF attacked. Statues were broken and consecrated hosts scattered around the altar,” Fr. Dominic Villa, parish priest of San Blas parish in Pigcawayan, said.  
 

“It is a clear disrespect and desecration of the sacred place for worship. What we need is respect,” he said.   Statues of Virgin Mary and huge Crucifix were broken.

The tabernacle, a place where consecrated hosts are kept, was opened and the hosts scattered on the floor. Several other statues were on the floor.  

Huge photos of President Duterte were taken down from some classrooms and torched.  

“Shot (sic) to kill ka naming DU30,” one message was written on a blackboard of one of the classrooms.  

On a white cartolina the BIFF wrote: “Kahit saan humingi ng tulong si DU30 di niya kami kayang ubusin…mag-ingat ka isusunod namin ang Davao City.”  

Villa said over the past two weeks, text messages have been circulating around about a plot by BIFF to attack Malagakit, the last Christian village from Poblacion to the marshland.  

“For about two weeks, residents of Malagakit and Simsiman have been evacuating at night, leaving the males behind to take care of their properties,” he said.  

Villa said Barangay Malagakit recently had its patronal fiesta but due to reports of impending attack by the BIFF, he instead held the fiesta mass at the main church in Poblacion, Pigcawayan.  

Pigcawayan Mayor Eliseo Garcesa also confirmed that text messages about BIFF harassment have been circulating around and received by some of the local officials who forwarded them to authorities.  

One of the civilians, Bai Wahim, a resident of Malagakit, told reporters they were herded by the gunmen brandishing firearms and black ISIS flag to the elementary school.  

“My house is near the school, we were herded there, all that the gunmen could grab were ordered to proceed to the school for our safety, they said,” Wahim, a Moro, said.  

“We were all there in the room, told to sit on the floor, Muslim and Christian residents, we were all together,” Wahim said, adding that Muslim and Christians have been living in the village harmoniously.  

“We have no conflict there, we live together peacefully, in fact there were inter-marriages among Maguindanaons and Ilonggos, until the BIFF arrived,” she said.  

Abu Amir, speaking for a faction of the BIFF, said his group only had one dead and two injured.  

Amir said the attack in Pigcawayan was in retaliation to the military’s continuing law enforcement operation in Maguindanao which led to the death of Raul Angkay in Barangay Labo-Labo, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao last week. 

Angkay is BIFF medical officer
 

“We will continue harassment against government forces in North Cotabato if the attacks against the BIFF in Maguindanao continue,” he said in a phone interview.   Residents complained their homes were ransacked by the gunmen while stores were looted of canned goods and other food stuff.  

Mayor Garcesa said the 1,300 persons remained in several evacuation sites and the LGU is attending to their needs.  

He said the LGU is waiting for the military to issue the green light for the residents to return home. 
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