Maguindanao seeks MILF help for Teduray tribes

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SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao: Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to help the military protect the non-Muslim Teduray tribe in the province from the atrocities of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Mangudadatu, who is also chairman of the Maguindanao Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC), convened the council in Buluan town and discussed the plight of thousands of indigenous Teduray dislodged from Mount Firis by a series of deadly attacks BIFF gunmen have been staging in the past three weeks.

Mount Firis, surrounded by Maguindanao’s Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns, is a centuries-old sacred tribal domain of the ethnic Teduray. It is where the BIFF wants to establish a camp on the pretext of preventing encroachment of Christian settlers from nearby provinces.

“The trouble there is not about land ownership. There are no Christian outsiders grabbing land there as alleged. All the people affected by the trouble are ethnic Tedurays, no one else,” Mangudadatu said.


He said the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the MILF can cooperate in helping secure the Teduray around the areas of Mt. Firis based on the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities that both sides signed in July 1997.

The security agreement enjoins both parties to cooperate in addressing security problems in conflict-affected areas in the southern provinces.

“The ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF is an inclusive kind of peace initiative, one that will benefit Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities. There is reason for both sides to work together in protecting these Teduray communities from the BIFF,” Mangudadatu said.

The BIFF, which uses the black Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner, does not support the peace process between the government and the MILF which is intended to put a negotiated peaceful agreement to the Moro issue hounding Southern Philippines since the late 1960s.

The 1997 interim truce between the government and the MILF also does not cover the BIFF which espouses public animosity to government and persecution of non-Muslims.

Mangudadatu recalled that last year, the military and the MILF were successful in driving away from the province Abu Toraife, the leader of a BIFF faction, through bilateral tactical efforts that can also be applied for the protection of ethnic Teduray.

The two other BIFF factions instigating hostilities around Mount Firis – the Bongos and Karialan groups – lost more than a dozen members in a series of encounters with pursuing soldiers between December 25 to January 6.

Local officials and barangay (village) leaders said two of the BIFF fatalities were bomb makers Salah and Maguie, both trained by slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in the fabrication and handling of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Two soldiers and a policeman were killed in a series of roadside bombings near Mount Firis while Army units and BIFF forces were locked in a three-week gunfight in upland areas around the indigenous people’s enclave.

Mangudadatu said the ethnic Tedurays are most vulnerable to roadside bombs and booby traps the BIFF gunmen laid along farm trails crisscrossing Mount Firis.

He said he will meet with Al-Mansour Gambar, MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces chief of staff, to discuss with him possible solutions to the security problems hounding the native Tedurays.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana, a member of the Army-led anti-terror Joint Task Force Central, said more explosive ordnance device experts will be deployed at Mount Firis to collect IEDs that BIFF bomb makers left.

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