DAGUPAN CITY -- Using backhoe and other heavy equipment, the city engineer's office on Thursday demolished at least 35 abandoned houses at the now deserted Muslim community in Sitio Tondaligan in Barangay Bonuan Gueset in Dagupan City.
The occupants of these houses have decided to go back to Mindanao at the height of the war on drugs by the Philippine National Police in early September this year, according to Superintendent Neil Miro, chief of police.
This was where some 60 Muslim families, who are engaged in trading in Dagupan, had settled as early as 1990.
But over the years, some of the Muslim community members were accused of involvement in illegal drugs and others were arrested and jailed.
One of the leaders of the Muslim community, Datu Michael Bagul, was among those arrested and charged for illegal drugs in the past.
Bagul is no longer visible in Dagupan and there is a strong suspicion that he may be serving his sentence now for violation of the anti-drugs law for which he was charged before the Regional Trial Court (RTC).
A daughter of Bagul was allegedly killed during the war on drugs. His sons were also earlier arrested for their alleged involvement in illegal drugs.
There were previous raids conducted in the area by a composite team from the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency where they seized illegal drugs and arrested suspects.
In the ongoing war on drugs, many more in that Muslim community were arrested and jailed.
Fearing arrests and for their lives, the remaining residents there opted to go back to their respective hometowns in Mindanao, hoping that life will be better there with then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as president of the Philippines.
Miro said the Muslim residents in the area informed him that they would rather go back to Mindanao than stay put in Dagupan where life, they said, is now getting harsher.
Miro informed this to Mayor Belen Fernandez who immediately allocated PHP100,000 from her own fund to defray the fare of families returning to Mindanao.
The Muslim community at Tondaligan, incidentally the first of its kind in Pangasianan, was reserved by the City Government for the Muslim settlers during the administration of then Mayor Alipio Fernandez Jr.
This is in recognition of the great contributions of Muslim settlers to Dagupan's growing economy.
It was at Sitio Tondaligan where the Muslims built their own mosque where they profess their Muslim faith.
Now that it was voluntarily abandoned, the City Government through its engineering office had to demolish all houses standing in the area to prevent squatters from occupying these.
Some of these houses were made of concrete and others of light materials. (PNA)