Gov't troops capture another BIFF camp
John Unson (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2015 - 9:17am

MAGUINDANAO - Soldiers on Monday hoisted the Philippine flag on another stronghold of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following ground and artillery attacks.

The fallen BIFF camp at Sitio Pedtad, a secluded area in Barangay Midpantakan in northeast of Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun town, was raided by soldiers led by Lt. Col. Markton Abo following Saturday’s attacks by bandits on peasant enclaves at the municipality’s border with President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat.

The contingent that overran the BIFF lair raised the national flag at its center on Monday afternoon, in the presence of Abo, who is commanding officer of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, and other officers of the unit.

Col. Melquiades Feliciano, commander of the Army’s 601st Brigade, which has jurisdiction over several towns in the second district of Maguindanao, Tacurong City and Sultan Kudarat, said not a single soldier was hurt in the takeover of the BIFF camp.

Feliciano said the operation was closely coordinated with the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Villagers, some of them relatives of local MILF commanders, have confirmed that the BIFF lost three men in Monday's Army counter-offensive.

The sources said four other bandits were also wounded when an 81-millimeter mortar projectile, fired by advancing soldiers, landed near them.

The BIFF, which is led by radical clerics who studied Islamic theology in secular schools in the Middle East and North Africa, does not recognize the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

Feliciano, who supervised the latest operation against the BIFF, said he had tasked a company of soldiers to help Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu attend to the needs of villagers affected by the BIFF’s harassment of military positions in Gen. S.K. Pendatun last weekend.

Lynette Estandarte, who is Mangudadatu’s chief budget management staff, said the governor convened the mayors of Gen. S.K. Pendatun and surrounding towns immediately after the incident to plan out contingencies needed to alleviate the plight of internally displaced people.

“The provincial government will extend relief and rehabilitation services to these people,” Estandarte said.

Farmers tilling lands around the former BIFF bastion in Gen. S.K. Pendatun have complained of excessive mulcting of “revolutionary tax” by bandits.

The group had also enforced a ruthless justice system in total disregard of the presence of barangay governments implementing domestic pacification programs under the “Katarungang Pambarangay,” as provided for by the Local Government Code.

The BIFF camp in Gen. S.K. Pendatun fell about eleven months after combatants of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division and the 1st Mechanized Brigade cleared from the group’s control a bigger and well-fortified guerrilla stronghold in Ganta District at the border of Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns.

BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS BARANGAY MIDPANTAKAN BIFF DATU PIANG AND SHARIF SAIDONA ESMAEL MANGUDADATU FELICIANO GANTA DISTRICT GENERAL CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES INFANTRY BATTALION PENDATUN
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