By Francis T. Wakefield and Joseph Jubelag
Four members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who surrendered to troops of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Ampatuan, Maguindanao were presented to Army 6th Infantry Division Commander and Joint Task Force ZamPeLan (Zamboanga Peninsula, Lanao) Major General Arnel B. Dela Vega and Maguindanao Governor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu at Camp Siongco, Awang, DOS, Maguindanao.
The BIFF members surrendered on April 10 bringing with them their high-powered firearms composed of rocket propelled grenade, M16 rifle, Squad Automatic Weapon and Garand rifle.
The surrender of the BIFF members is a breakthrough in countering violent extremism, according to authorities, considering that it is the first time for the BIFF to surrender to the government, Dela Vega said.
“We encourage other members of the BIFF as this is a good opportunity for them to live a better life and eye-opener that the soldiers will not hurt them,” he said.
The identities of the surrenderees are withheld for their security. The 6th ID will give them refuge to protect them before they are ready to go back to the mainstream society.
“The surrenderers felt that it is time for them to return to the fold of law after seeing that President Rodrigo Duterte is serious about his campaign to attain peace in Mindanao,” Dela Vega said.
In Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat, more than 400 mass base supporters of the Communist Party of the Philippines here have pledged their allegiance to the government following the withdrawal of their support from the communist underground movement.
Mayor Jonalet de Pedro welcomed the political supporters of the CPP and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, who are mostly members of the Indigenous Peoples group who decided to abandon the communist rebel group and join mainstream society.
After pledging their allegiance to the government, the former CPP-NPA supporters then staged a peace rally outside the town hall here where they denounced the atrocities and extortion activities of NPA rebels within the IP communities in the province.
Lt.Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, said the military was able to dismantle the NPA political mass base in remote IP communities here following the launching of the ‘Balik Tribo’ initiative aimed at liberating the IP communities from the control of NPA rebel group.