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MILF girds for new war

Central rebel command anticipates BBL junking

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is preparing for war in anticipation of the possibility of the Philippine government scrapping the Bangsamoro Basic Law and ordering a military offensive against them.

This was the gist of a message, purportedly from the MILF Central Committee, which was forwarded to the Manila Standard Today on Tuesday by a source, who did not want to be identified.

Hataman
“Naghahanda na ang gobyerno dahil itatapon na ang BBL (referring to the Bangsamoro Basic Law),” read the MILF message.

The message comes with an order to MILF commanders to be ready for the attacks, which it described as a “secret all-out war.”

“Mag-ingat tayo dahil “SECRET ALL OUT WAR,” ang sisimulan ng gobyerno laban sa MILF,” the message added.

The MILF’s warning on the possibility of an all-out war against government forces emerged after several lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives turned their backs against the passing of the BBL in the light of the atrocities allegedly committed by MILF forces against the SAF commandos, who died while on a mission of arresting Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan and his Filipino protege Abdul Usman Basit.

The incident also triggered widespread outrage among ordinary Filipinos.

In the message, the MILF cited its own sources that the PNP-SAF and the AFP, to be led by Marines, scout rangers and Special Weapons and Tactics units and even the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are preparing to enter MILF and BIFF territories.

“Ang military nila ay naka ready na sa pagpasok sa area ng mga muslim/MILF-BIFF,” the message said.

The MILF central committee also advised civilians, especially  those with firearms not to take chances on the possible surprise attack.

The MILF is  said to be strengthening its ranks in different camps in Mindanao in anticipation of a possible attack by government forces.

Sources said the MILF has a membership of 10,000 fighters and several sophisticated firearms in its inventory. Of the 10,000 fighters,  ten percent are auxiliary forces and do not possess firearms.

The passage of the BBL is now encountering difficulty at the House of Representatives and was suspended indefinitely pending the result of the investigation being conducted by both chambers and the PNP Board of Inquiry.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor (ARMM) Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman, however, said that war is never an option in Mindanao.

”I strongly believed that war is not the option, it should never be an option,” Hataman told reporters Tuesday.

“We are from Mindanao and we know the cruelty of war, nobody wins, all of us are losers,” Hataman added.

Hataman said he was hurt by posts in various social media networks calling for war in Mindanao.

”Some have been calling for the scrapping of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said. “If we stop talking to the MILF, what group we will talk with that agrees to come up with agreement attuned to the Philippine Constitution?” Hataman asked.

He said the 17-year peace talks in Mindanao had so many dividends and it should not be destroyed by anything that the MILF had nothing to do with.

”We in the ARMM are for peace based on justice and truth, we all want peace, more than the people of Luzon and the Visayas, we in Mindanao want peace,” Hataman said.

As this developed, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said the MILF has only two options in case the BBL collapses.

“The MILF has two options—go to war or surrender. Now if they go back to war hindi malayo ang reunification ng mga muslim, mahihirapan naman ang government especially with the arms of the rebels,” said MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza.

“If war ignites, does the government have the wherewithal to pursue war and how long will their ammunitions last?” Cerveza asked.

But even as the MILF prepares for a possible war against the government, it still has to contend with its continuing firefight over “rido” against the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which has forced almost 15,000 residents to flee their homes in Pikit, North Cotabato and Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

The BIFF leadership, however, appears to have taken the first step to end the clashes, as it reportedly wrote the MILF asking for a ceasefire.

The hostilities between MILF fighters led by Commander Jack Abas and the BIFF led by Shiek Muhiddin Animbang, alias “Commander Karialan,” began Saturday in Sitio Tatak, Barangay Kalbugan in Pagalungan, “deep inside the Maguindanao marshland,” according to the military.   

The affected areas are located within the so-called Buliok Complex—where the boundaries of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces meet.

Among the confirmed casualties is MILF commander Datukong Ampuan, alias “Falcon,” of the 108th Base Command.

Although the MILF claims to have killed at least four BIFF gunmen, the splinter group’s spokesman Abu Misrie Mama, acknowledged only one fatality and five wounded on their side while claiming to have killed five MILF fighters.

Pikit Disaster Risk Reduction and Management officer Tahira Kalantungan reported that 9,036 residents had evacuated from Barangays Barongis, Kabasalan, Bulol, Rajah Muda and Bago Inged, many of them seek-ing refuge with relatives, the rest in local madrasas or schools.

Kalantungan said the fighting has also forced the suspension of classes in the affected villages.

Another 5,000 persons have evacuated in Pagalungan and have been staying at the municipal gym, the market and schools, according to lawyer Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin, commander of 7th Infantry Battalion, said that the remote villages of Kabasalan and Barongis is now a no man’s land after more than 250 armed members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) took full control of the areas. With PNA          

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