COTABATO CITY: Civilian and military officials have finally resolved the decades-old Moro rido (clan feud) in North Cotabato that claimed number of lives and displacing hundreds of civilians every time hostilities erupt between the feuding families as they signed a peace deal on Wednesday.
The warring families, who belonged to two Moro fronts in Mindanao, also vowed before the Qur’an to cease from firing their guns against each other.
North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco and Brig. Gen. Roberto Capulong, 602nd Infantry Brigade commander, invited the warring Moro families to come up with a “win-win” solution and let both sides sign a peace deal during ceremonies held at the Army’s brigade headquarters in Carmen, North Cotabato.
The forging of the peace covenant marked an end to decades of sporadic hostilities involving members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Datu Dima Ambel and followers of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sub-commander Naig Naga.
“Peace is a choice. If all of us here choose peace and we learn to let go of anger, pain, revenge, then we have chosen peace,” Catamco told representatives of warring families, military and police officials and civil leaders during the meeting.
Capulong pitched in by saying: “I will not allow this day to pass without a peace deal signed by both sides, we must come up with an agreement.”
The warring families, for their part, showed a willingness to end the conflict.
The clan of MNLF’s Dima Ambel, whose son Norodin was killed in an ambush last week, cried for justice but expressed willingness to work with government troops and respect the peace pact.
Ustadz Alimmodin Omar, commander of the MILF’s 108th base command, told Catamco and Capulong that he already ordered all MILF ground commanders in the area to back off and uphold the ceasefire.
The peace pact was signed by Datu Alex Ambel for the MNLF Misuari Group and Ustadz Omar for the MILF.
“I am willing to spend three days, listening to both sides and all affected families, if this is what it takes to come up with a lasting solution to this conflict,” Catamco later told reporters.
The peace deal declares the cessation of hostilities and both sides must abide by it religiously with a team of representatives from both sides, Army, police, local officials, and peace observers formed to monitor their compliance.
Both sides were directed to stay in their respective confined areas, refrain from issuing provocative statements, avoid the display of guns, especially on the other’s area of jurisdiction.
Those involved in the ambush that killed Norodin Ambel, village councilman of Barangay Kilada, Matalam, have been identified, arrested by MILF leadership, and were turned over to the MILF main base in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat for further investigation and possible punishment.
The warring families also agreed to allow some 1,000 family-evacuees to return home.
While a clan war in Matalam has been resolved, both Catamco and Capulong now turned their eyes on yet another clan war in Pikit, also in North Cotabato.
Military reports identified the warring factions in the borders of Pikit, Cotabato, and Pagalungan, Maguindanao as those belonging to MNLF sub-commanders Jainudin Butuan and Kuwat, and the group of MILF 110th base command sub-commanders Abdul Hamid Sansawi, Sambutuan, and Ekot.
The fighting has displaced some 1,500 families who belong to the Maguindanaon tribe and have been observing the fasting month of Ramadan.
At least two from both sides have been killed in the conflict that reignited last Sunday.
Local officials reported 30 houses of civilians have been razed to the ground after these were looted by gunmen.
MASIDING NOOR YAHYA