‘Give MILF pact a chance’

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Military officers examine documents, uniforms and communication gear found inside the BIFF camp in the village of Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao. Photographs of child soldiers were among the items the BIFF fighters left behind. AFP PHOTO

Military officers examine documents, uniforms and communication gear found inside the BIFF camp in the village of Ganta, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao. Photographs of child soldiers were among the items the BIFF fighters left behind. AFP PHOTO

MALACAÑANG on Sunday appealed to leaders of Muslim groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), to renounce violence and consider the benefits of the final peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“The last annex [on normalization]has just been signed. Let’s give it a chance,” said presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte.

Valte said that instead of waging war, the Muslim leaders should study the issues surrounding the agreement.

“Let’s look at the annexes. Let’s look how beneficial it will be to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” she said.


According to her, the atrocities committed by the BIFF will only make people suffer and stunt development in areas where the BIFF operates.

“We seek lasting peace in Mindanao. There are places that really suffer because of these incidents and we all want to have peace there,” Valte said.

Government troops hoisted the Philippine flag on Saturday in the biggest camp of the outlawed group in Maguindanao.

The seven-hectare camp in Barangay Ganta in Shariff Saidona town was the base of more than 500 BIFF fighters led by Ustadz Karialan. For five days, it was pounded by artillery fire by combined elements of the Army’s 601st Brigade, the 1st Mechanized Brigade and the Sixth Infantry Division.

The BIFF’s leader, Ameril Umbrakato, vowed to fight to the death.

On the issue of child fighters, Valte said the government condemns the practice as she defended the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from criticisms that troops killed three minors fighting for the BIFF during the offensive.

“You know, that is what the military is saying . . . that once everybody puts on uniforms and you’re in your combat gear already, it’s hard to distinguish [a child from an adult warrior],” she said.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said “Operation Darkhorse” was terminated after the three-day extension requested by the Agence France-Presse from the Joint Ad Hoc Joint Action Group of the government and the MILF ended Sunday.

The military said 52 BIFF fighters were killed and 49 were wounded in the offensive.

One soldier was killed and 20 others were injured. Eight civilians were wounded.

Besides the BIFF’s main camp in Shariff Saidona, the military captured three smaller camps and a makeshift explosives factory.

Operation Dark Horse was launched late last week in support of the PNP’s drive to serve arrests warrants on Umbrakato and his followers who were facing various charges including kidnap for ransom and murder.

Zagala said the three-day extension was crucial in applying pressure on the BIFF.

“It allowed the military to press further into areas where the BIFF were entrenched and prevented the spillover of violence by containing the lawless elements in these areas,” he said.

With the BIFF neutralized, the 9,465 families that fled the fighting can return to their homes, Zagala said.

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4 Comments

  1. MILF represents only some areas but not the whole of Mindanao. It is expected that in the coming months or years big problems will engulf Mindanao because not all people are interested in the PEACE Wagon designed by Malacanang.

  2. Paitoon Charoenkrung on

    hmmm, u have excluded the BIFF from the agreement so how can they honor that agreement. The only way for real peace in Mindanao is to bring all the important players be they lumads, muslims or christians, gather them all in a round table negotiation and let them propose and agree themselves on the mechanics of bringing peace in that troubled region

    • you want to include all the outlaw and bandits in peace process as if this group will likely lay down their arms for peace?? they are only arm group and nothing but rebel without a cause but with a cost,,what important is the ordinary people who are really the victim of this war and who should be the beneficiary of the pending development of mindanao due to this war..

  3. Simon Benigno Arroyo on

    To renounce violence is easy, but to give up arms is not viable with the PLUTOCRATIC GOVERMENT and DYSFUNCTIONAL JUDICIAL SYSTEM. If they surrender their arms, they will lose the right to bear arms for the protection of their properties, as stipulated in the constitution.
    Marcos tried to curtail bearing arms. What happen was, abuse of civil rights thru torture and salvaging prosper which was initiated by the Armed Forces.
    Peace negotiation should be executed after the citizenry believes and trust the government…. With all the corruption and transgression of evil happening, the citizenry will not surrender their arms.