Remember, a couple of weeks ago I posted a column about the agreement between the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the Government of the Philippines (GRP) concerning Ancestral Domain? Well, a lot has happened since then. It all started last week when a “mini-war” broke out in North Cotabato. A group of MILF combatents took over certain Barangays in North Cotabato, took farmland from farmers, and generally caused trouble in the areas. They were ordered by the GRP to vacate the areas that they were holding, and move completely out of the area. Some of the rebels moved out peacefully. Others stayed and fought, or moved to other areas and fought.
Last week, when Feyma and I went to Digos, as I reported in my post about Pomelo, on our way home to Davao, we saw a LOT of Army vehicles, including armored vehicles moving toward North Cotabato. The skirmishes there were quite real, believe me. This past weekend there was more action. On Sunday, Iligan City experienced three bombings, one of which was in a hotel there. There were plenty of injuries there due to the bombings. A lot of people are speculating that MILF people perpetrated these bombings.
Yesterday (Monday) was a big day, though. Many attacks happened all around Lanao del Norte Province, including in Iligan City. Seven farmers were killed in cold blood by MILF, six other civilians, and seven Army personnel. President Arroyo addressed the Nation on TV at mid-day and said the the actions of the MILF were tantamount to a declaration of war in Mindanao. In addition, MILF rebels attacked Maasim town in Sarangani Province. I have been to each of these places that came under attack, and have visited each of the places multiple times, so I am quite familiar with not only Maasim, but the areas in Lanao del Norte that were attacked as well.
For their part, the MILF spokesman stated that the attacks were not “sanctioned” by the MILF. At the same time, though, the MILF leadership ordered their people to stop the attacks. By making this order, it would seem that the MILF is admitting that it is their people who are behind these horrid actions. This means that either the MILF sanctioned the attacks, or that they do not have control over their people. No matter which is the reason, should the GRP be negotiating with the MILF if they can’t even control their own people? Giving away part of Mindanao to these people? What is the MILF giving in return. Supposedly, the MILF is giving peace to the government, but what we are seeing right now is not peace, you can be certain of that.
I have a lot of very good friends in Iligan, and I wish them nothing but the best. I hope that they and their families remain safe, and that nobody is injured or killed.
So far, I consider Davao to be very safe. But, some of these things (particularly the problems in North Cotabato) are getting close to the City. I have a lot of confidence in Mayor Duterte, though, and if anybody can keep the city safe, Mayor Duterte is the one. Right now, I have no reason to think about leaving the area, and I doubt that it would come to that. But, things are getting somewhat worrisome for the area, and hopefully things can be calmed before things flare up any further.