Spiritual reorientation of villagers indoctrinated by VREs mulled
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The last of six peasant enclaves in Maguindanao where Esmael Abdulmalik, a hardcore violent religious extremist, ran a shadow government for ten months fell on Wednesday after a series of gunfights with guerillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that started the day before.
Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said on Friday he is ready to help in the spiritual rehabilitation of villagers in barangays where Abdulmalik and his men operated after they established a third faction in the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in November 2016.
Abdulmalik’s group, disowned by the two other BIFF factions, one under Imam Bongos and the other led by Imam Karialan, is using the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as revolutionary banner.
“We have moderate, non-violent Islamic theologians around who can help us usher the affected villagers back to the fold of genuine Islam that is all about peace, respect for life and respect for people with different religions,” Mangudadatu said.
Abdulmalik, himself a cleric, and many of his followers who are also Imams are eloquent in espousing hatred for non-Muslims. They are also good at fomenting public animosity to the national government using underdevelopment and “religious persecution” as talking points.
Photos below show armaments and firearms recovered from captured BIFF camp in Barangay Tee, Datu Salibo, Maguidnanao. (6th ID photos)
“Their claim of religious persecution is easy to correct and disprove. Nowhere in any part of the country can we find Muslims being banned from going to mosques during Fridays and from airing the adhan (call to prayer) five times a day using a public address system,” Mangudadatu said.
More than a thousand MILF guerillas, whose organization has an on-going peace overture with Malacañang, were involved in the takeover of camps established by Abdulmalik in remote areas in Maguindanao’s Salibo, Datu Piang and Sharif Saidona towns.
Abdulmalik, a former henchman of slain Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, trained recruits in fabrication and use of powerful improvised explosive devices in the enclaves that are now controlled by the MILF.
Army teams that inspected the last bastion of Abdulmalik’s group in Barangay Tee, Salibo that the MILF occupied on Wednesday found there four powerful IEDs, two M-14 rifles, an M-16 rifle and an ISIS flag left by militants as they fled in haste.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr. of the Western Mindanao Command also recommended on Friday a special religious program meant to reintroduce into mainstream society the villagers influenced by Abdulmalik’s group.
Galvez, however, wants it spearheaded by local government units and peace-advocacy groups supporting Malacañang’s diplomatic engagements with southern Moro sectors.
“We will support the effort as a peace-building partner, behind the LGUs for the initiative to become a domestic community-driven campaign versus violent religious extremism,” Galvez said.
Galvez and Mangudadatu both lauded the MILF for driving away Abdulmalik and his followers from the barangays where they imposed a justice system villagers detested for being primitive and ruthless.
“Obviously the residents there blindly allowed their presence because of fear. They were under duress so they turned a blind eye on the presence of militants there. That is understandable,” Galvez said.
Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also offered the services of the Department of Education-ARMM and the Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission in rehabilitating residents indoctrinated with violent ideology.
The MILF lost 16 guerillas in its operation against the group of Abdulmalik, launched on August 2 following attempts to hoist the ISIS flag on strategic spots inside guerilla enclaves recognized as “peace zones” by the national government.
The MILF’s bid to clear Maguindanao from ISIS-inspired groups is in keeping with its interim ceasefire accord with the national government, the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities.
The security agreement obliges both sides to cooperate in maintaining law and order in conflict flashpoint areas in southern provinces.
Col. Diosdado Carreon of the Army’s 601st Brigade said Friday that soldiers out on ocular tour in the last enclave of Abdulmalik’s group the MILF reclaimed Wednesday found graves where militants killed in previous encounters with front members were buried.
“We are convinced some of those buried there were militants executed by their companions on suspicions that they spied for the MILF and the Army,” Carreon said.
Senior Supt. Agustin Tello, director of the Maguindanao provincial police, said certain relatives of missing followers of Abdulmalik have confirmed the executions.
Among those reportedly executed on order of Abdulmalik were four followers --- Hamodi, Omar, Rasul and Asraf --- caught sending text messages to suspicious contacts that revealed their location and a plan to abandon their camp in Barangay Tee once advancing MILF forces get close.
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