Bangsamoro in talks with Abu Sayyaf, BIFF to return to the fold of the law

Bangsamoro in talks with Abu Sayyaf, BIFF to return to the fold of the law
This file photo shows the executive building of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
via The STAR / John Unson

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangsamoro government is in talks with the Abu Sayyaf for the extremist group to return to the fold of the law, its chief minister said.

“We are both having dialogue with all the groups including the Abu Sayyaf also in the island provinces,” Bangsamoro Transition Authority chief minister Ahod Ebrahim told a media conference organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

Ebrahim also relayed that they are trying to convince the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), to join the government.

“Two groups [of the BIFF] are open to the dialogue. We are working out now more than 900 members of these groups,” Ebrahim, MILF chairman and who is also known as Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, said.  

Ebrahim previously said that some BIFF members were supposed to join the MILF, which now leads the interim government of the Bangsamoro, in time for the autonomous region’s second anniversary but had challenges as some of them had pending arrest warrants.

BIFF leaders Salahudin “Salah” Hasan and Animbang “Commander Karialan” Indong, and dozens of other combatants face complaints over a December 2020 attack on a police station and military detachment in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

While they are talking with the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF, Ebrahim said that they are also strengthening their security measures through their interim security group composed of MILF combatants who have not yet been decommissioned, the military and the police.

RELATED: Bangsamoro officials: Address 'open wounds' to curb terrorism

Bangsamoro transition extension

Bangsamoro officials have been urging Malacañang and Congress to allow the BTA to continue working for three more years, citing lack of time for a full transition due to the pandemic.

“We need this extension in order to complete the implementation of the [peace] agreement,” Ebrahim said.

The proposal to extend the life of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is currently pending in Congress, with the House of Representatives holding last week its first hearing on the measure.

Ebrahim conceded that with only 16 months before the next elections, the timeline for the approval of the measure is “very short,” which is why they hope that President Rodrigo Duterte certifies the bill as urgent.

Malacañang has said that Duterte supports the extension of the Bangsamoro transition process for three more years to 2025, but stressed that a law is needed for this to happen. — Xave Gregorio

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