From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): Police create TF Pigcawayan
The police have set up Task Force Pigcawayan following the attack by an estimated 300 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato Wednesday, killing a civilian and displaced hundreds of families, officials said Thursday.
Supt. Romeo Galgo Jr., Police Regional Office – Region 12 (PRO-12) spokesperson, said the task force’s command post was set up at the police regional headquarters here after BIFF fighters attacked three villages in Pigcawayan town on Wednesday.
“The BIFF members harassed the residents of Barangay Malagakit, Simsiman and Banucagon, Pigcawayan, Cotabato as they forcibly entered and destroyed several houses of the residents and occupied the Malagakit Elementary School there,” he said.
“This led to an exchange of gunfire between the armed group and government forces in the area,” Galgo said.
Galgo also said the elements of the 34th Infantry Battalion immediately responded to the incident and engaged the enemies.
Task Force Pigcawayan is chaired by Senior Supt. Leonardo Suan, PRO-12 director for operations.
The Cotabato Provincial Police Office was also directed to create its own task group to directly supervise and monitor the incident, Suan said.
Galgo said the Regional Public Safety Battalion augmented the Pigcawayan municipal police station for the conduct of intensified checkpoint operations and to help avoid a spillover of the incident.
Around 1,400 individuals from 312 families have sought refuge in various evacuation centers in Pigcawayan, said Jezler Garcesa, spokesperson of the crisis management committee of the Pigcawayan local government unit.
Citing a local police report Thursday, Garcesa said a civilian, Towan Dading Esmael, 61, died during the firefight in the village of Malagakit on Wednesday.
Garcesa said that classes in 14 schools in the interior villages of the town were suspended to ensure the safety of students.
He said the gun fight between the BIFF and the government troops have subsided Thursday, as the bandits have retreated to the marshland.
Galgo said that two members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, namely Angel Verona and Resty Segundera, were also wounded in the firefight.
Galgo urged the public to cooperate with authorities, especially in passing through checkpoints, as these are measures designed to ensure the safety of civilians.
He also called on the public to be vigilant and report to authorities suspicious individuals or groups for proper action by authorities.
The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) due to ideological differences.
The MILF is now a “peace partner” of the government following the signing of a final peace agreement in 2014, after decades of negotiations.