Authorities urge residents to help solve conflicts in upland Maguindanao town

John Unson - Philstar.com
Authorities urge residents to help solve conflicts in upland Maguindanao town
Members of the Army's 57th Infantry Battalion are helping maintain law and order in South Upi.
Philstar.com / John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — The police and military again urged residents of South Upi Friday to help end the deadly armed conflicts in the municipality that state security entities alone cannot solve.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division pounded with artillery and bombs dropped by Air Force planes the surroundings of South Upi in a series of offensives this week to flush out forces of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters attacking hapless Teduray villages in the area.

South Upi, located in the second district of Maguindanao, is home to mixed ethnic Teduray, Christian and Muslim communities troubled by recurring hostilities since late 2019.

Major Gen. Juvymax Uy of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said Friday there are now enough soldiers guarding South Upi, where there are groups locked in bloody land disputes and political quarrels, but are still helpless without cross-section support.

He said their 57th Infantry Battalion is focused mainly on two towns now, North Upi and South Upi, to maximize the 6th ID’s effort of containing the domestic security problems besetting the local communities.

“But without the help of the local sectors, we in the 6th ID and our counterparts in the police will have a hard time achieving a breakthrough in putting an end to the conflicts in South Upi,” Uy said.

No fewer than 3,000 families have been displaced by recurring conflicts in South Upi since last year, many of them forced to relocate to barangays near the municipal center due to recurring attacks by gunmen trying to drive them away from fertile lands in their “Fusaka Enged,” or ancestral domain.

Gunmen thrice attempted to kill South Upi Mayor Reynalbert Insular in the past two years using roadside bombs that were identical with the improvised explosive devices fabricated by the BIFF, which is operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

A motorist was killed while another was wounded just two weeks ago when an IED planted along a highway in the town proper of South went off while they were passing by.

More than a dozen South Upi residents have been killed in hostilities that rocked the town in the past 16 months.

Brig. Gen. Samuel Rodriguez of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region said Friday filing of cases against the groups behind the troubles in South Upi cannot take off without public cooperation.

The PRO-BAR deployed more personnel in South Upi last year to help its local government unit maintain law and order in troubled barangays.

“We cannot do much without the support of the public. We ought to help each other in maintaining law and order in that part of Maguindanao,” Rodriguez said. 


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