Mangudadatu seeks MILF help on Mount Firis security woes

BANGSAMORO NEWS UPDATES  • Thu Jan 11, 2018 05:05 PM  •  83   0
By John Unson
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Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu presides over the PPOC meeting on Jan. 10, 2017 in Buluan, Maguindanao. (Photo courtesy of LTC. Besana)
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu presides over the PPOC meeting on Jan. 10, 2017 in Buluan, Maguindanao. (Photo courtesy of LTC. Besana)
MAGUINDANAO --- The provincial peace and order council has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to help the military protect non-Muslim Tedurays in the province from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. 

The council, chaired by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, convened in Buluan town Wednesday and discussed the plight of thousands of indigenous Tedurays dislodged from Mt. Firis in Maguindanao by a series of deadly attacks by BIFF gunmen the past three weeks. 

Mt. Firis, surrounded by Maguindanao’s Datu Hofer, Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns, is a centuries-old tribal domain of ethnic Tedurays which is for them sacred and where the BIFF wants to establish a camp on the pretext of preventing encroachment by Christian settlers from nearby provinces. 

“The trouble there is not about land ownership. There are no Christian outsiders grabbing lands there as alleged. All the people affected by the trouble are ethnic Tedurays, no one else,” Mangudadatu said after presiding over the PPOC emergency meeting on Wednesday at the provincial capitol in Buluan. 

Mangudadatu said the joint ceasefire committee of the government and the MILF can cooperate in helping secure the Tedurays in the surroundings of Mt. Firis based on the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities both sides crafted in July 1997. 

The security pact enjoins both sides to cooperate in addressing security concerns in potential conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces. 

“The on-going peace process between the government and the MILF is an inclusive kind of peace initiative, one that will benefit Mindanao’s Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities. There is reason for both sides to work together in protecting these Teduray communities from the BIFF,” Manggudadatu said. 

The BIFF, which uses the black Islamic State flag as revolutionary banner, does not support the peace overture between the government and the MILF, intended to put a negotiated closure to the Moro issue hounding Southern Philippines since the late 1960s. 

The group, which espouses public animosity to the government and persecution of non-Muslims, is also not covered by the 1997 interim truce between Malacañang and the MILF. 

Mangudadatu said the military and the MILF have achieved a record feat in driving away from the province last year the leader of a faction in the BIFF, Abu Toraife, through bilateral tactical efforts that can be initiated too for the protection of ethnic Tedurays at Mt. Firis. 

The two other factions in the BIFF instigating the hostilities around Mt. Firis, the Bongos and Karialan groups, lost more than a dozen members in internecine clashes with pursuing soldiers from between December 25 to January 6. 

Local officials and barangay leaders said two of the BIFF fatalities were bomb-makers Salah and Maguie, both trained by slain Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in fabrication and handling of improvised explosive devices. 

Two soldiers and a policeman were killed in a series of roadside bombings near Mt. Firis while Army units and BIFF forces were locked in a three-week showdown in upland areas around the tribal enclave. 

Mangudadatu said ethnic Tedurays are most vulnerable to roadside bombs and booby traps laid by BIFF gunmen along farm trails crisscrossing Mt. Firis. 

A member of the Maguindanao inter-agency security bloc, Lt. Col. Gerry Besana of the Army-led anti-terror Joint Task Force Central, said more ordnance experts shall be deployed at Mt. Firis to collect IEDs scattered by BIFF bomb-makers. 

Mangudadatu said he will meet the chief of staff of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, Al-Mansour Gambar, to discuss with him possible solutions to the security problems besetting native inhabitants of Mt. Firis.
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