3 BIFF members surrender to military in Maguindanao

John Unson - Philstar.com
3 BIFF members surrender to military in Maguindanao
The three militants from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters were presented to journalists by Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the 6th Infantry Division (right) at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao on Friday night.
Philstar.com / John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines — Three more members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters surrendered on Friday and pledged allegiance to the Philippine flag.

One of them told reporters they decided to surrender and turn over their firearms to Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division after realizing that their group, based in central Mindanao’s Liguasan Delta, could be 6th ID’s next target following an airstrike there two weeks ago that destroyed their makeshift bomb-making facility and killed nine, three of them foreign terrorists.

“Kami na sigurado ang isusunod at naisip naming kawawa ang aming mga anak kung mamatay kami,” said one of the BIFF bandits, who asked to be identified only as Mangcala for his safety.

He said the squabbles of their commanders for the leadership of BIFF, which has three factions now, one of them led by an Islamic State-inspired cleric, Imam Abu Toraife, are getting worst.

The surrender of the three men, who also turned over four assault rifles and a .50 caliber Barret sniping rifle, brought to 18 the number of BIFF members who surrendered to the 6th ID since April this year.

The first to yield were four bandits trained in fabrication of improvised explosive devices by the slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, most known as Marwan, while Gen. Arnel Dela Vega, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, was at 6th ID’s helm yet.

Eleven more surrendered three weeks later to Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu through the intercession of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion, the 1st Mechanized Battalion and local officials in Paglat and General Pendatun towns in the province.

The office of Mangudadatu is now helping reintegrate the new reforming BIFF men, two of them commanders, through socio-economic interventions and religious formation by moderate Muslim theologians helping address misguided Islamic militancy plaguing isolated areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Mangudadatu earlier said President Rodrigo Duterte has also promised to provide them core shelters to hasten their return to mainstream society.

The local government unit of General Pendatun has offered lots where to construct the houses.

“These three men first signified their desire to surrender to a local executive and officials of the 602nd Brigade and the 7th IB,” said Sobejana, who assumed as 6th ID commander only last May 25.

Both units are under 6th ID, whose coverage spans through the neighboring Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces, and several towns in Lanao del Sur.

Sobejana said there were actually five of them who were to bolt out, but the two failed to leave their enclave at the marshy border of Mlang, North Cotabato and General Pendatun, Maguindanao on agreed time.

“The duo assured they will proceed with their surrender once they can leave. There were some security considerations. We are giving them enough time to plan their safe exit from their lair,” Sobejana said.

The three BIFF men, two of them named Taul and Solaiman, are to undergo tactical debriefing meanwhile in Camp Siongco, the command center of 6th ID, while its units are to relocate their families to areas far from reach by their hardcore companions.

“Surely they will become subject of reprisals,” Sobejana said.

Reports have circulated early on purporting that more than 20 BIFF members had been executed by companions from April to May alone on mere suspicion they were in backchannel talks with groups interceding for their surrender.  

Two of those reportedly killed by companions gangland style, Akong Sumael and Khalid Tangan, were accused of providing the military information on their movements in the Liguasan Delta, located at the tri-boundary of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

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