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GUNMEN’S HUMANITY

Surrender of BIFF men shows family outweighs terror

/ 05:22 AM June 25, 2018

TIRED OF RUNNING The military presents three BIFF men who surrendered to officials on Friday in Maguindanao province. —FERDINANDH CABRERA

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao — A member of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Roy Saidali Maningkala, was hiding in the bushes in an area around Liguasan Marsh when his phone rang. His 10-year-old son was calling.

What happened next was supposedly the stuff tearjerkers are made of and it showed the contrasting lives that men like Maningkala lived as an outlaw and a family man.

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Outlaw

But Maningkala’s life as a BIFF fighter being hunted by soldiers ended right there.

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His son, now in Grade 4, begged him to come home telling him how much he missed his father.

Maningkala could not tell his child he was in the middle of the marsh, trying to evade capture or getting shot by soldiers along with three fellow BIFF fighters.

They had been on the run for more than a week already as the military stepped up the hunt for BIFF gunmen who had sworn allegiance to Islamic State (IS) and were trying to regroup for another campaign to take over territory and turn it into an IS province.

It was what Maute and Abu Sayyaf tried to do in Marawi City, leading to a five-month war with government soldiers that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands of people.

Talking with his son on the phone drove Maningkala, a squad leader of BIFF, to tears and a decision to return to his family alive.

Where’s my father?

He talked with his three fellow BIFF fighters but only two agreed to come with him to surrender.

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“I realized I have to take care of my family first,” Maningkala said.

The call from his son proved to be key to his decision to turn himself in. The boy, he said, asked “why I was not around when he needed most my presence in school.”

On Friday, Maningkala and two of his men — Junior Dia Kaul and Bin Tato Sulaiman, residents of SK Pendatun town, Maguindanao province — sought help from a local official.

The official helped link up Maningkala with the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade based in Carmen town, North Cotabato province.

After everything was arranged, Maningkala’s group found itself yielding five firearms that included an M-14 Armalite rifle, an M-16 Armalite rifle, M-653 carbine and two homemade caliber 50 sniper rifles, also on Friday.

At a presentation of the three BIFF fighters, Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the 6th Infantry Division based here, attributed the surrender to the military’s relentless operation to hunt down the gunmen.

“Obviously, they ran out of space and their only way out was to give up,” Sobejana said.

The military had launched massive operations against BIFF in the interiors of the vast Liguasan Marsh being shared by Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

No way out

Since the operations started on June 10, a soldier and 23 terrorists, including five Indonesians and a Singaporean, were reported killed by bombing runs and ground assaults.

Two civilians were killed in the crossfire.

Sobejana said the operation was continuing and the military hoped that more BIFF gunmen would surrender rather than be killed by soldiers.

Early this month, five “hard core” BIFF fighters also surrendered to the military with their rifles after realizing they were fighting a lost cause, he said. —Edwin Fernandez

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