DATU ABDULLAH SANGKI, Maguindanao: The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the civilians of this town and other restive municipalities stand ready for the new offensive by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as the Moro National Liberations Front (MNLF) called for the restoration of peace in the region.
Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of the 33rd Infantry Battalion (33IB), told The Manila Times that residents in the towns of Ampatuan and Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat are organizing civilian volunteers’ organizations (CVOs) to help secure their respective areas.
He belied some reports over television and newspapers (not The Manila Times) about civilians in conflict-affected areas are arming themselves to fight the BIFF if this armed group will invade their community once again.
“There is no arming of civilians, but concerned barangays were organizing their respective CVOs to help in watching over village security,” Bunayog said.
The Manila Times learned that the civilians have also launched a ‘text brigade’ as well as ultra high frequency (UHF) radio communications network for faster information dissemination in case of any eventualities posed by the BIFF.
There is also an evacuation plan for affected folks in case of armed encounter that the BIFF will carry out their threat to launch another attack.
Bunayog also allayed the fears of the people in the restive towns assuring them that the AFP can handle the situation and will defend and protect the lives and properties of the civilians.
“We are on top of the situation. We are doing our best to bring back normalcy and ultimately restore lasting peace in the area,” Bunayog said.
Similarly, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Zone of Peace Command in Maguindanao has called upon the BIFF, military and the CVOs to stop the atrocities so that civilians including farmers could go on with their usual livelihood.
Commander Qudz Simpal, head of the MNLF Zone of Peace Command in Maguindanao, told The Manila Times they adhere to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed by the Philippine government and the MNLF under Chairman Nur Misuari with the concurrence of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the restoration of peace and normal situation in the affected towns.
Simpal added that their MNLF camp in Datu Abdulllah Sangki has been converted to a Zone of Peace Command serving as a “guardian of peace,” although their war armaments are still intact.
“We in the MNLF, especially in the Zone of Peace Command, are here to defend the people especially the unarmed civilians. We are duty bound to comply our obligations as ‘guardian of peace,” Simpal warned.
Although he did not categorically mention the BIFF Simpal from all indications directed his warning to the group being the aggressive party.