BIFF scoffs at BOL but promises not to disrupt plebiscite
COTABATO CITY — Breakaway members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) slammed on Sunday the holding of a plebiscite on Monday to ratify a law that would put former colleagues at the helm of the autonomous region Bangsamoro, saying they would continue the fight for Islamic State in Mindanao.
Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson for the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), told the Inquirer that if their founder, Hashim Salamat, were alive, he would not give in to the expanded autonomy offer of the government.
“It’s just the same with what was offered to the Moro National Liberation Front. That’s why the MILF was formed,” Mama said.
However, Mama assured that their forces would not make any disturbance on the day of the plebiscite though they would defend their position once they would be attacked by government security forces.
The head of the military in the region said they had enough troops to secure the plebiscite in Maguindanao and Cotabato City.
Major Arvin Encinas, spokesperson of the 6th Infantry Division, said part of the 10,400 soldiers were deployed in the areas of concerns, including Cotabato City where two people were killed and dozens were wounded in bomb explosion outside a shopping mall on New Year’s eve.
Major General Cirilito E. Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Central, reminded soldiers of their core purpose of protecting the people and securing the land.
“We should not lose sight of our three operational imperatives, that is, to enforce the rule of law, give due respect to human rights and strictly adhere to the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law,” he said.
The BIFF, with hundreds of fighters, split from the 12,000-member MILF in 2008.
Among them was Abu Toraife, another leader of the BIFF that pledged allegiance to IS, but did not send fighters to Marawi.
Toraife split from the MILF, the country’s largest rebel group which signed a peace deal with Manila three years ago.
The MILF then dropped its separatist bid for an independent state in the south, an idea that did not sit well with Toraife. He broke away from the rebel chain-of-command and led his followers, who numbered a few dozens, to press on with the fight. /je
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