Armed groups torch houses in Maguindanao-A A +A
Saturday, January 5, 2013
KIDAPAWAN CITY - Fear gripped a village in Datu Montawal, Maguindanao as armed groups torched three shanties, all made of light materials, located just 20 meters away from the police outpost, at around 10 p.m., Thursday.
Datu Abdullah Pandita, one of the residents in Datu Montawal, said they were roused from sleep when they saw villagers run for safety as their shanties were being razed.
Though no one was hurt during the burning incident, it sent residents to panic, Pandita said.
The incident came a month after a lull in the armed fighting between warring political clans in Datu Montawal.
Two clans are at odds in town, according to Pandita: one group is connected to the family of Datu Montawal Mayor Datu Uttoh Montawal and the other is connected to the family of Vice Mayor Mohalidin Bao.
Both are seeking for the mayoral post in Datu Montawal.
Pandita, however, believes the armed clashes in his town are "beyond politics."
"The fighting is beyond politics. The families whose members were killed by Datu Andy Montawal, younger brother of Montawal Mayor Datu Uttoh Montawal, want to avenge their deaths. They are seeking justice," said Pandita.
Datu Andy, former president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen in Datu Montawal, is facing several cases, including rape and murder.
But Pandita was surprised that despite the presence of Datu Andy in the area, "none among the policemen in our town would want to arrest the suspect."
"Datu Andy, despite the many warrants for his arrest, is seen roaming around the village. In fact, he is leading a group to harass residents of Poblacion and other villages nearby," said Pandita.
Mayor Montawal has earlier denied accusations that he is securing in his residence his younger brother. He also denied it was his group that led the attack in Poblacion.
The sporadic fighting that started in Datu Montawal since October last year has already displaced thousands of villagers, reports said.
In nearby Kabacan in North Cotabato, fire gutted three classrooms, including the principal’s office, of the Kilagasan Elementary School in Barangay Kilagasan, at around 8:15 p.m., Thursday.
Kabacan municipal fire marshal, Fire Inspector Ibrahim Guiamad, hinted faulty electrical wiring could have caused the fire.
He said that hours before the incident, an electrician has done some calibrations in the school’s electrical wirings. Also, he hinted an overloaded power supply could have caused the fire.
"This might be caused by some negligence on the part of the electrician or whoever did the calibration of the electrical wirings in school. We also saw an overloaded power supply here,” Guiamad told media in Kabacan.
The fire in Kabacan was the second in North Cotabato in January. On New Year’s Day, fire gutted a house and an internet café in Makilala town located just a block away from the fire station.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 06, 2013.