Tuesday Aug, 20 2019 03:17:34 AM

Rebuilding lives of former BIFF men gaining headway

Mindanao Peace Process • 21:30 PM Sat May 4, 2019
John Unson
The former BIFF men who received rice rations lost their crops to drought.

MAGUINDANAO -- The military is anticipating the surrender soon of more Islamic State-inspired militants seeing how their now reforming companions are benefiting from government socio-economic interventions.

The Maguindanao provincial government and the Army’s 601st Brigade again extended on Friday relief assistance to more than 30 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who surrendered in batches in the past two years via a domestic program meant to hasten their reintegration into mainstream society.

Among those who recently returned to the fold of law was the elusive BIFF leader Gani Saligan, who is now being reintroduced, along with his 12 followers, to the local communities by the 6th ID and the office of the now outgoing third-termer Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu.

Major Gen. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said Saturday he is thankful to the provincial government of Maguindanao for supporting efforts of rebuilding the lives of former BIFF members who have pledged allegiance to the Philippine government.

The 50 bags of rice the 601st Brigade distributed to the former BIFF members last Friday was part of an emergency relief package meant to alleviate their families from hunger due of crop losses caused by the drought plaguing Maguindanao since February.

The BIFF, operating in the fashion of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is not covered by the ceasefire accord between Malacañang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mangudadatu said the Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment, or MagPEACE, is ready to provide college scholarship to children of BIFF militants who have surrendered to units of 6th ID.

The MagPEACE has produced more than 2,000 college graduates since its inception in 2010.

Sobejana said they are optimistic of the surrender soon of more BIFF bandits.

“The companions of those who have surrendered are aware now of the readiness of the provincial government of Maguindanao and the 6th ID to help reform them for good,” Sobejana said.

Sobejana said senior officials of the inter-agency Maguindanao provincial peace and order council are helping the 6th ID secure the surrender of more BIFF members through backdoor dialogues supported by Mangudadatu and his constituent-mayors.

Mangudadatu, whose third and last term as governor will end on June 30, is certain his brother, Freddie, a candidate for the gubernatorial post in the province, will continue the peace and reconciliation programs he started after he got to the helm of the provincial government following his election in 2010.

Freddie is mayor of Mangudadatu town in the second district of Maguindanao and is president of the 36-member league of mayors in the province.

His candidacy for Maguindanao governor, as an anointed bet of President Rodrigo Duterte, is openly backed by 26 of the 36 mayors in the province.

The remaining 10 mayors are with his rival, gubernatorial candidate Mariam Sangki Mangudadatu.

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