By Francis Wakefield
Learning about the Army's community projects, six fully armed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) rebels decided to abandon their comrades in the Liguasan Marsh and surrendered.
(Francis Wakefield/ MANILA BULLETIN)
The surrenderors are members of the BIFF faction under Gani Saligan (who is still hiding), a notorious rebel in south-western Liguasan Marsh. They brought with them six high-powered firearms including two Rocket Propelled Grenade Launchers, two Cal 50 Sniper Rifles, one M14 Rifle, and one Cal 30 Bolt Action Sniper Rifle when they surrendered at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday.
Among the surrenderors was Dido Malawan, 46, the Deputy Brigade Commander of the BIFF's 2nd Division.
"There are no more reasons for us to fight the government. The soldiers have solved our problems such as the rido, and helped our village see the light through the electrification project," Malawan said.
The other surrenderors have realized the futility of their cause after seeing the development projects facilitated by the AFP in General SK Pendatun area.
The 33rd Infantry Battalion and the 1st Mechanized Infantry Battalion have orchestrated the implementation of the P2 million electrification project in Midpandacan village, GSKP town, Maguindanao in collaboration with Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative.
In addition, the Army had also refurbished a school that was abandoned for three years due to the perennial fighting among rival clans.
All surrenderors will receive an immediate assistance worth P20, 000 from Maguindanao Lawmaker Congressman Zaid 'Dong' Mangudadatu. They will likewise receive livelihood package from Governor Esmael 'Toto' Mangudadatu of Maguindanao.
The surrender negotiation was a collaboration among different agencies including the local government of General SK Pendatun, Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, Sultan Kudarat Provincial Police Office, 4th Special Action Battalion and the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade.
This year, the Division facilitated the surrender of 18 BIFF rebels in 3 batches.
The second batch of returnees led by Sindatok Delna, who have surrendered in May 2018, will receive their livelihood benefits from Maguindanao Provincial government on Aug 15, 2018.
"The surrender of our brothers from the BIFF is a welcome development in our ongoing effort in supporting the peace and development agenda of the government. We would like to transform Liguasan Marsh from a battlefield to an oilfield that would bring economic prosperity for the Moro people and Mindanao region as a whole," said Brig. Gen. Cirilito E. Sobejana, Commander of 6th Infantry Division.