ABDULLAH SANGKI, Maguindanao: Beleaguered residents of conflict-torn towns in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat have appealed to the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels to intervene and prevent the recurrence of attacks from a Moro breakaway group in Central Mindanao.
Residents noted that the two peace panels are duty-bound to observe interim security agreements, including the July 1997 Agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities, to mutually cooperate in addressing security concerns in areas where there are MILF forces.
However, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MILF, is not bound by the agreement.
Local officials said they are convinced the government and MILF panels can do something to address the BIFF threat squarely with the help of the police and the military.
The BIFF’s simultaneous attacks late last month left 13 people dead, among them eight farmers from Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat and from the towns of Datu Saudi-Ampatuan and Datu Abdullah Sangki. The atrocities displaced more than a thousand families.
The 33rd Infantry Battalion headed by Lt Colonel Ricky Bunayog, which has jurisdiction over the restive areas, said the BIFF also suffered four fatalities during the encounter with responding soldiers.
With the BIFF having suffered four casualties, the residents fear that the extremists may retaliate anytime, hence, their appeal for intervention from both the government and MILF panels.
Meanwhile, Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has denounced the BIFF attacks as barbaric and called on the affected communities to remain sober.
“The attack was devoid of any sense of revolutionary zeal and principles. It was an act of terrorism. It was an attack against civilians, an attack against peace and development in Mindanao, and a cowardly act that deserves nothing but our collective condemnation,” Hataman said in a statement.
Hataman, also the chairman of the ARMM’s inter-agency regional peace and order council, assured the residents that the government is doing its best to address the security problems hounding the local communities.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL