Military asked to suspend anti-BIFF drive to allow holding of graduation rites

DATU ODIN SINSUAT, Maguindanao (MindaNews/20 March) – Local government and education officials in Maguindanao have asked the military for a three-day suspension of the “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to allow the holding of graduation ceremonies in several areas in the province.

During the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting Thursday at the 6th Infantry Division headquarters, Maguindanao 1 Schools Division Superintendent Meriam Kawit, proposed the suspension so that schools that have become evacuation centers can hold commencement exercises.

The Army was tracking down BIFF guerrillas in Maguindanao’s 13 towns.

Two more towns are hosting 125,302 individuals displaced by the military operations which began on Feb. 25.

About 13,000 elementary and secondary students are set to graduate this year, said Kawit who proposed the suspension of the offensive from March 25 to March 28.

“We are planning to conduct clustered or centralized graduation or we make new platforms where the graduation can be held,” she told reporters after the meeting.

“Our concern really is the graduation of pupils, when and where to hold commencement exercises,” Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu directed the mayors of 13 towns to hold municipal peace and order council meetings to determine the specific dates of graduation rites.

He also asked the mayors to help the military identity BIFF members in their respective communities using their “assets.”

Brig. Gen. Manolito Orense, 6th ID assistant division commander, said if the military had its way it want a total stop to the operations.

“However, there are some areas where the lawless elements still exist so the Army will stay,” Orense said.

He said they will assess what areas in Maguindanao the evacuees may now return to.

He said this will be known when the PPOC meets again early next week.

No skirmishes were reported in the past three days. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)