Maguindanao relief workers distribute packed meals to displaced Teduray children.
Philstar.com/John Unson
Displaced residents scared to return home after BIFF attacks
(philstar.com) - January 17, 2018 - 11:18am

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Indigenous Tedurays displaced by deadly attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are reluctant to return to their homes for fear of their safety.

More than a thousand Teduray families were forced to abandon their homes when BIFF gunmen attacked their villages around Mt. Firis in Maguindanao province last December, set houses on fire and laid improvised explosive devices along farm trails to prevent them from coming back.

Evacuees told members of the People’s Medical Team of the provincial government of Maguindanao Tuesday they are apprehensive that the BIFF gunmen that harassed them repeatedly last month would come back and again drive them away once they return to their tribal enclaves at Mt. Firis.

Mt. Firis is a sacred site for Tedurays. It is in the heart of their ancestral homeland surrounded by Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak, South Upi and Datu Saudi towns.

Lynette Estandarte, chief budget officer in the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, and personnel of the provincial government distributed on Tuesday five truckloads of relief supplies to the evacuees now in squalid evacuation sites far from reach of marauding BIFF forces.

Estandarte, who is helping manage the provincial medical and emergency response team, said dozens of evacuees afflicted with various ailments were also treated and provided with medicines.

“It’s the children and the elderly Tedurays we pity most,” Estandarte said.

The team also distributed food rations to more than 200 Teduray children, many of them now out of school, during Tuesday’s outreach missions at Mt. Firis.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the inter-agency provincial peace and order council, had earlier urged the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help address the nagging security woes besetting the Teduray communities at Mt. Firis.

The BIFF boasts of allegiance to the Islamic State and is not covered by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

The government and the MILF are bound by the interim security pact to help each other maintain law and order in potential conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.

“Mt. Firis rightfully belongs to our Teduray siblings. We must help one another ensure that they are safe there,” Mangudadatu said during a meeting of the provincial security council last January 10.

Teduray farmers told reporters Tuesday there is no truth to claims by the BIFF that its bloody attacks last month were in protest of the encroachment of Ilonggo, Ilocano and Cebuano settlers into strategic areas around Mt. Firis.

Moh Dandi Dayeh, a 45-year-old farmer, said there would have been non-Teduray evacuees in the evacuation sites if the BIFF’s assertion is true.

“Wala pong ni isa mang hindi Teduray sa mga bakwit. Puro kami mga Teduray. Gusto lang nila kaming palayasin para makapag-lagay sila ng kampo diyan sa aming lugar,” he said.

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