ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines — A personal squabble could be one reason why a group of village watchmen attacked a group of militiamen led by an Army soldier, according to Mayor Arcama Patarasa Istarul of Tipo-Tipo town, where the incident happened, in Basilan province.
According to Istarul, the attack was carried out on Friday evening allegedly by members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) in Bohe Lebbung village against a detachment of militiamen there.
A soldier, two militiamen, and a civilian were killed.
The dead were identified as Pfc. Mark Anthony Monte, who was assigned at the Bohe Lebbung detachment; militiamen Sam Akay and Alibasa Antaas, and civilian Kong Uging.
Four others were wounded, identified as militiamen Randy Ibung and Gary Cuevas and civilians Halam Jainul and Hakim Marani.
The village watchmen who attacked them were allegedly led by a certain Karim Manisan, a BPAT member and nephew of the Bohe Lebbung village chief.
“There was a grudge for quite some time between the BPAT and the [soldier] — although we managed to settle this in the past,” Istarul disclosed, speaking partly in Filipino.
This grudge could be a reason for the attack, but it would be best to confirm it through an investigation, Istarul said.
“We cannot really say what actually was the recent reason why they attacked the troops,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Fernando Reyeg, commander of Joint Task Force Basilan, said he knew about the personal grudge between Monte and Manisan, but he noted that both had mended fences two days before Friday’s attack.
On Friday evening, Manisan invited Monte to his home, some 120 meters away from the Army detachment.
As Monte’s group was on their way, they were allegedly fired upon by Manisan and his group, at around 9:30 p.m.
They then fled towards Sitio Larangay in Barangay Buli-Buli of Sumisip town aboard pump-boats.
“We are doing our best to secure the voluntary surrender of Manisan and his men,” Istarul said.
He added that he is seeking the cooperation of the Bohe Lebbung village chief to communicate with Manisan.
Istarul gave assurance the conflict would be resolved “without having to harm innocent civilians in the process.”
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