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Officials anticipating surrender of more BIFF militants soon

 • 18:43 PM Sat May 12, 2018
John Unson
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu serves chicken siopao to former BIFF leader Tasli Sanoy while at the governor’s office Friday.

MAGUINDANAO --- Authorities are certain more local militants will soon surrender after 15 from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters pledged allegiance to the Philippine flag in just a month.Eleven of the 15 former BIFF members on Friday promised Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and Gen. Bismark Soliba of the 1stMechanized Infantry Brigade to help convince others to yield to the military while there is time yet.They surrendered to officials of the Army’s 33rdInfantry Battalion Thursday following a month of backchannel talks with their leaders, Sindatok Dilna and Tasli Sanoy, both senior BIFF field commanders.Dilna and Sanoy also turned over their assault rifles to Mangudadatu and Soliba during a simple surrender rite at the governor’s office in Buluan town in the second district of Maguindanao.Dilna and Sanoy separately said they surrendered to Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc of the 33rdIB when they learned that the four BIFF bomb-makers who surrendered to the Army’s 6thInfantry Division last month were all provided with livelihood support by the Maguindanao provincial government.Sanoy said they were also threatened by the warning of President Rodrigo Duterte, during his April 25 visit to Maguindanao, that he will not negotiate with militants boasting of allegiance to the Islamic State and that surrender is their only way out.The BIFF, founded in late 2010 by foreign-trained cleric Ameril Umbra Kato, espouses hatred to non-Muslims and to the government, using neglect and poverty as pitch in convincing adventurous illiterate men to join its ranks.Sanoy and Dilna both said the BIFF had lost more than a hundred members in encounters with units of the Army’s 6thInfantry Division in the past 12 months. Life is so difficult now. Besides the military, forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are also running after us, Sanoy said in Maguindanaon dialect.He and Dilna confirmed that more than 30 BIFF gunmen perished in MILF offensives in Datu Piang, Datu Salibo and Shariff Saidona towns in Maguindanao last year.They asked Mangudadatu to supply them with farming tools, small boats and fishing gears needed to generate income to sustain their families.All 11 of them were fishing freshwater fishes at the Liguasan Delta before they joined the BIFF, enticed by promises of cash incentives from foreign benefactors that never reached them.The four BIFF members who surrendered last April to Lt. Gen. Arnel Dela Vega of 6thID each received livelihood packages from the Maguindanao provincial government.Mangudadatu assured to have the equipment the 11 former BIFF members need for their fishing and farming ventures delivered within seven days. We can also build houses for them. We have the assurance of President Duterte to help us reform misguided religious extremists for them to become peaceful and productive citizens, said Mangudadatu, now in his third and last term as governor.He said the provincial government’s domestic peace initiatives are supported by the president.We have funds for rehabilitation and for livelihood support for militants wanting to have normal lives, respectful of the Philippine Charter, Mangudadatu said.Dela Vega said he is thankful to Cabunoc and to Lt. Col. Lauro Oliveros of the 1stMechanized Infantry Battalion for working out the surrender last Thursday of the 11 militants following clandestine talks assisted by local officials in Maguindanao’s Datu Paglat and S.K. Pendatun towns.Dela Vega, citing reports from Cabunoc and Oliveros, said there is another BIFF group now sending surrender feelers. We can’t announce yet how big is the group and the names of its leaders because talks are still underway, Dela Vega said.Mangudadatu and Dela Vega are both certain more BIFF gunmen will come out soon to return to the fold of law.

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