The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) should drop its attacks in North Cotabato-Maguindanao border for the sake of peace, Muslim lawmakers said on Tuesday.
Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong of Lanao del Sur and Rep. Jim Hataman of Basilan made the stance in light of the gunfight between the government soldiers and the BIFF members which transpired after the state and the MILF inked the normalization annex of the Framework Peace Agreement, the last of the annexes.
“They should let the negotiation run its course. They really don’t want to join the talks…they have opposed it from the very beginning. What the military is doing [right now]is law enforcement because these people are not covered by the ceasefire of the government,” Balindong told reporters during the Ugnayan sa Batasan News Forum.
Hataman then underscored that the people on the ground are tired of violence and wars.
“They [BIFF members] should give the peace deal a chance. As a political leader, I know that the common sentiment of the people on the ground is that they want this peace deal [with the MILF]because clashes have been there for so long. Everybody wants peace,” Hataman said.
“There is no alternative to peace. We need peace to address underdevelopment and provide basic health services. We need peace to take off,” Hataman stressed.
Hataman, however, expressed confidence that attacks from the BIFF and other breakaway groups of the MILF won’t be able to derail the peace deal between the government and the MILF.
Hataman cited that the breakaway factions are too few, unlike the MILF which maintains a stronghold in the area.
“Most of those who are fighting the government in the past are from the MILF ranks, so this pact will be significant. I don’t think BIFF can derail the peace process because these are pocket attacks that can definitely be neutralized, unlike in the case of the MILF in the past where their attacks in the past can shutdown roads in Davao, Cotabato, General Santos and Basilan,” Hataman added.
Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez, for his part, noted that Akbayan party-list will throw its support behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will come out of the Framework Peace Agreement.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law, to be drafted by the Transition Commission, will be to Congressional approval.
“The completion of the Bangsamoro Framework is clear proof that both parties are committed in securing peace in Mindanao. We hope that this agreement will soon pave the way to ending decades of unrest, lay the foundation for a lasting peace and lead to a sustainable growth and development for the people of the region,” Gutierrez said in a separate statement.
“We are to take up the challenge of providing the necessary legislative intervention that will give statutory “teeth” to this historic agreement and flesh to the framework. We are prepared to work overtime,” he added. LLANESCA T. PANTI