Google map of Talitay, Maguindanao province.

COTABATO CITY – A police and military manhunt is underway against 30 heavily armed men who attacked and destroyed equipment at the town mayor’s sub-office in Talitay, Maguindanao Monday morning.

Major Solaiman Bakal, Talitay police chief, said that Mayor Moner Sabal and his staff were unharmed as they were yet to arrive at the sub-office located in Barangay Gadungan.

The attackers allegedly belonged to the Ameril clan, the political archrival of the Sabal family. “Nobody was hurt but the gunmen smashed the office’s main door and destroyed office equipment,” Bakal said in a phone interview following the 7 a.m. incident.

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Joint-Task Force Ittihad (Peacekeepers) stationed in the village tried to pacify the gunmen but they were also attacked, triggering a brief firefight. Policemen and soldiers from the Army’s Special Forces Battalion are currently securing the sub-office and the village.

Bakal said the Sabal-Ameril bitter rivalry stemmed from the 2019 midterm polls. Moner was the elected top councilor in last year’s polls. His father, Abdulwahab, was the elected mayor while his uncle, Montasir, was elected vice mayor.

Moner assumed the vice mayoral post when Montasir was suspended by the Department of the Interior and Local Government due to his undeclared ownership of land and properties, and confiscation of high volumes of shabu and unlicensed firearms during a series of raids in his suspected hideouts in Talitay.

“Montasir has gone into hiding since,” Bakal said.

Mayor Abdulwahab was assassinated in front of a hotel in Manila in February this year, elevating Moner to the mayoral post.

Both the Sabals and Amerils were tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as narco-politicians in Maguindanao but the clans vehemently denied they were into the illegal drug trade. (PNA)