No suspects yet in vandalism of Maguindanao church

No suspects yet in vandalism of Maguindanao church

Mayor Marop Ampatuan has put up a reward of P50,000 for information that will lead to arrests. Google Earth

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Authorities have yet to identify suspects and motives behind the burning of Catholic icons in a chapel in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao over the weekend.
Senior Superintendent Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said investigators are looking into three angles in the case.
"Let us give them enough time to wind up with their investigation on the incident," he said.
He said an ownership dispute over the land on which the chapel stands is being considered.
"Another angle is that violent religious extremists were behind the attack," Tello said, referring to armed groups like the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which operates in parts of the province.
He said they have also received reports from villagers that a yet to be identified group is trying to stir up animosity among Muslim and Christian residents.
The provincial police chief said local officials have asked senior commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help find the people behind the vandalism.
Shariff Aguak Mayor Marop Ampatuan, chairman of the municipal peace and order council, has already offered a reward of P50,000 for any information that would lead to the arrest of the culprits.
Ampatuan, a first-term mayor, said senior officials of the MILF’s 106th Base Command are helping with the case.
The MILF and the government are bound by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities to cooperate in addressing security problems in potential conflict flashpoint areas in Mindanao.
"That atrocity was painful for us in the Shariff Aguak local government. I have never heard of any quarrel on religion among the Muslims and Christians here since I was a small child," the mayor said.
Nobody has claimed responsibility for the incident.

'Disturbing and provocative crime'

Catholic Cardinal Orlando Quevedo on Wednesday said he hopes authorities identify the culprits and bring them to justice soon.
Quevedo, archbishop of the Cotabato Diocese, which covers all Catholic parishes in Cotabato City and Maguindanao, said the destruction of the statues was “gravely disrespectful” of Catholic beliefs.
“Such a crime is most disturbing and provocative,” Quevedo said. "This criminal act is an abhorrent desecration of a place of Catholic worship."
Quevedo hopes the incident will not drive a wedge into the solidarity of Christian and Muslim residents of Shariff Aguak. — John Unson

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