More Dawlah, BIFF members expected to surrender in 2024

John Unson - Philstar.com
More Dawlah, BIFF members expected to surrender in 2024
While securing the public tightly against terror attacks, units under the Army's 6th Infantry Division are also engaged in backchannel efforts meant to entice remaining members of local terrorist groups to surrender and get reintroduced into the local communities.
Philstar.com / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Police and Army officials are certain of the surrender in 2024 of no less than a hundred more members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Dawlah Islamiya from across the neighboring Bangsamoro provinces and predominantly Moro towns in Region 12.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said on Sunday that their units in Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces and local government units are to intensify in 2024 their backdoor talks with members of both groups who had signified intention to return to the fold of law.

Seventeen members of the BIFF surrendered to the Police Regional Office-12 in General Santos City last December 20 through the intercession of different police units under the region’s police director, Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg. 

Battalions and brigades under 6th ID, the Bangsamoro regional police led by Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza and PRO-12 had separately worked out the surrender in batches of 719 BIFF and Dawlah Islamiya terrorists since January 2022.

“We have been receiving more surrender feelers lately and we are confident more from these two groups will come out in 2024 and return to their hometowns and, there, thrive in peace,” Nobleza said on Sunday.

The chairperson of the Regional Development Council 12, Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, said on Sunday that she will flex her influence to oblige mayors in her province and other areas under RDC-12 to embark on peacebuilding projects that can hasten the local reconciliation programs of the police and Army for BIFF and the Dawlah Islamiya members.

“We need to work together on that `bayanihan style’ for peace to fully spread around in areas where there is presence of these groups. Peacebuilding cannot be done without the support of all sectors,” Mendoza said

Rillera said a good showcase of civil-military cooperation in addressing both groups is how the Cotabato Provincial Peace and Order Council, whose presiding chairperson is Mendoza, and her constituent-mayors, are together maintaining law and order in the 63 Bangsamoro barangays in their province.

The 63 barangays in different Cotabato towns are under the regional government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, but are inside the territory of Administrative Region 12.

“There were remarkable breakthroughs in the settlement of clan wars among Moro clans there since 2019 and a big number of Dawlah Islamiya and BIFF members from there have returned to the fold of law as a result of the joint peace efforts of the Cotabato provincial governor, her constituent-mayors, the 602nd Infantry Brigade and the police,” Rillera said.

Rillera said Mendoza and mayors in Cotabato province are together trying create a “good investment climate” in the 63 Bangsamoro barangays for capitalists to come in and venture into viable capital-intensive agricultural projects that the local communities can benefit from, via employment and generation of revenues that recipient-LGUs can allocate for community-based humanitarian and socio-economic projects.

“For their efforts, we are thankful. Economic progress in areas where there are few remaining BIFF and Dawlah Islamiya members will catalyze peace and hasten our efforts to make them renounce their membership with both groups,” Rillera, who is member of the RDC-12, said. 

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