MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato: An elite force commander of the Karialan Faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and eleven of his followers surrendered to the Joint Task Force Central (JTFC) at the headquarters of the First Mechanized Brigade (1st MB) in Ampatuan, Maguindanao on Monday.
Col. Pedro Balisi, commander of the 1st MB and Lt. Col. Charlie Banaag, commander of the Sixth Infantry (Redskin) Battalion spearheaded the simple ceremony for the voluntary surrender of the 12 former extremists.
The surrenderers also yielded assorted high-powered firearms, ammunitions, and explosives including one M16A1 caliber 5.56 mm rifle, one M79 grenade launcher, two M14 rifles, one caliber.50 sniper rifle, one caliber.30 sniper rifle with scope, two other caliber.30 sniper rifles, two rocket propelled grenade launchers, two components for improvised explosive device jet matic pump with two blasting caps, and various ammunition.
“The continued surrender of the BIFF leaders and members is a manifestation that their ranks are weakening. The sustained military operations against them resulted in the decline of their membership and to the near destruction of their group,” Balisi said. “JTFC and the peace-loving people of Maguindanao will soon be able to achieve victory in winning the peace we are fighting for when extremist groups are totally wiped out.”
Maj. Gen. Juvymax Uy, commander of the Sixth Infantry (Kampilan) Division and the JTFC, welcomed the former bandits back into the fold of the law.
“We are grateful you have denounced the BIFF and have finally cut your support with them. You also surrendered equipment used to destroy lives and properties. Rest assured this kind of act will never be put to waste,” Uy said.
Uy also lauded the concerted efforts of the 1st MB together with other security forces of the government as well as local officials of Shariff Saydona Mustapha in facilitating the surrender of the 12 former BIFF members.
The former extremists are now undergoing custodial debriefing and documentation.
They will also receive benefits and assistance from the Agila-Haven Program (AHP) of Maguindanao to help them start peaceful lives with their families in the mainstream society.
This is the sixth group to surrender to government security forces in Maguindanao for the month of August.
It can be recalled that 13 former extremists surrendered in President Quirino on August 6 and another 10 surrendered in Shariff Aguak on August 13.
This was followed by the surrender of four former BIFF members in Datu Hoffer Ampatuan town on August 18 and another 10 in Datu Saudi Ampatuan on August 24.
Six more former terrorists surrendered in Datu Salibo town on August 25.
The series of surrenders can be attributed to the relentless several months of manhunt of the JTFC against the remaining members of the BIFF and the Daulah Islamiyah who are on the run after a number of armed clashes with security forces.
This effort is also being complemented by the Province of Maguindanao through AHP, urging violent extremists to return to the folds of the law and embrace a peaceful and sustainable life ahead.