• Mindanao towns with no IRA helpless against BIFF

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    COTABATO CITY: Local officials of towns without internal revenue allotments (IRA) said they were unable to address the insurgency problem in two military-liberated villages in Maguindanao.

    At a press conference organized by the Philippine Army’s Sixth Infantry Division on February 2, a representative of the mayor of Shariff Saidona Mustapha town caught the attention of journalists when she admitted their helplessness in the face of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) guerillas in their community.

    She said they learned about the BIFF encampment and operations in Barangay Ganta but could not take action because “we do not have IRA.”

    Shariff Saidona Mustapha is one of eight towns in Maguindanao created by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional legislature in 2005 at the behest of the then ruling Ampatuan political clan. The seven others are the towns of Datu Salibo, Datu Hofer Ampatuan, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Mangudadatu, Pan–dag, Datu Blah Sinsuat, and Northern Kabuntalan.

    Because the eight towns lack the minimum population of 25,000 required under the Local Government Code of 2001, the national government refuses to provide them with IRA.

    At the seventh founding anniversary of Mangudadatu town on January 28, Rep. Sajid Mangudadatu of second district announced he would push for the lowering of the population requisite to 15,000 for the eight towns to qualify for IRA subsidies.

    The eight towns subsist on donations from higher government units, said the solon who was the mayor of Pandag before winning a seat in Congress in the 2013 elections.

    Mangudadatu said he had asked the representatives of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the 15-member Transition Commission to include the provision in the draft of the Bangsamoro region’s basic law.

    Soldiers backed by arrest warrants-serving cops captured the main camp of the BIFF at Barangay Ganta in Shariff Saidona Mustapha, Maguindanao, and occupied Reyna Regente of the same town after the January 27 to 31 “surgical” offensives.

    The military said the offensives left 52 rebels, two civilians and a soldier slain, and 59 guerillas with some troops and civilians including two journalists wounded. Some 10,000 residents were displaced and are being served by relief teams from Maguindanao and the ARMM.

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