Ex-BIFF members join ‘de-radicalization’ workshop

CARMEN, Cotabato (MindaNews / 21 February) – At least 20 former members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are undergoing a two-week “de-radicalization” workshop in the Army’s Camp Lucero here.

The activity, which started on Thursday, is a joint undertaking of the 602nd Liberator Brigade and Balay Mindanaw, a nongovernment organization known for its peacebuilding work.

A young member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) hands over his rifle to 1st Mechanized Brigade commander Col. Robert Dauz and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Zajid “Dong” Mangudadatu during surrender ceremonies in a makeshift hut near the highway in Midpandakan, Gen. SK Pendatun municipality in Maguindanao on Thursday (9 August 2018). MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

“After the surrender, what happens to them? How sure we are they will not go back to the old ways,” brigade commander BGen Roberto Capulong said, explaining the purpose of the workshop.

Capulong noted that while the mujahedeen of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would undergo a normalization process under the peace agreement signed with the Philippine government, there is no clear program for BIFF surrenderees.

The surrenderees are staying in Bahay Tagapagpalaya, a half-way house version for the transformation of the former rebels.

Livelihoods are also offered to the former combatants for them to start anew as civilians.

Bapa Kegs (not his real name), one of the former rebels joining the workshop, said he was just forced to joined the BIFF due to threats issued by the group.

Muslim religious leaders were also invited to the workshop explain the true meaning of Islam.

The military said the BIFF, a breakaway group of the MILF, has aligned itself with the ISIS, which espouses a violent brand of Islam.

“Our Ustadz here re-emphasized the true teachings of Islam into the right direction because the problem was, it was twisted,” Capulong said. (Ferdinandh Cabrera/MindaNews)