GPH panel chair calls on BIFF to ‘reconsider violent ways’

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 26 Dec) – Following the killing rampage staged by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters the past few days that left nine civilians killed, the chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating a truce with Moro rebels has called on BIFF leaders “to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives.”

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in a press statement released through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), said that BIFF’s attacks in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato “indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause.”

Reports said the BIFF, who claimed it was part of their jihad (struggle), also suffered four casualties in the Christmas eve attacks.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of 33rd Infantry Battalion, said BIFF members led by a certain commander Sukarno Sapal first attacked their detachment in Sitio Manilong, Barangay Banaba around 3:45 a.m., leading to a three-hour exchange of gunfire.

While the firefight was going on in Barangay Banana, other members of the BIFF also initiated separate attacks in the villages of Paitan, Sagasa and Takal in Esperanza town, Sultan Kudarat province, he said.

The three villages are close to the border in Maguindanao where the first attack was launched.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesperson of one of three factions of the BIFF, claimed responsibility for the simultaneous attacks, but stressed that their victims were not farmers but members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit (CAFGU).

Bunayog said that in Barangay Paitan, two farmers were killed when the rebels happened to pass by the victims’ farm.

He added that at around 5 a.m. Thursday in Sitio Sabaduan, Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan town, five farmers were killed when members of the BIFF captured them while they were about to spray chemicals in their rice field.

He said the farmers proceeded to their rice farm despite the advice of government soldiers to cancel agricultural activities because of the ongoing tension and firefight in the nearby villages.

“They were shot one-by-one at point blank after they were captured,” Bunayog said.

The BIFF rebels reportedly killed a barangay councilman in Barangay Simsiman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato Thursday night, and killed yet another farmer elsewhere.

“We commiserate with the families of the nine civilians who were summarily executed by the [BIFF] in separate incidents over the last few days,” Ferrer said, adding that they are praying for the “strength and the safety of the civilians who find themselves exposed to the danger of ongoing hostilities.”

She lauded soldiers who, instead of celebrating Christmas, were mobilized to the prevent more BIFF attacks.