PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

AQUINO HITS 'ENEMIES OF PEACE'; CRITICS MUST LAY OUT ALTERNATIVES


President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech at the Edsa Shrine during the 29th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Wednesday. Acting as interpreter using sign language is Fr. Luke Moortgat. LYN RILLON --
A month after the Mamasapano fiasco, a defiant President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday launched his own offensive against critics of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying he would not yield to “enemies of peace” in Mindanao. In a speech on the 29th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, the President stressed that he continued to trust the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), despite the massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao province last Jan. 25. READ MORE...

ALSO: Aquino wants AFP to ‘relentlessly pursue’ BIFF


MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III is all for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ all-out-offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Malacanang said Wednesday.
“The guidance of the President to our security forces is to relentlessly pursue both lawless elements and terrorist groups,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told INQUIRER.net after Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered joint law enforcement operations with the Philippine National Police (PNP). “Based on this guidance, the AFP reports that CSAFP, Gen. Gregorio Catapang has directed his operational commanders to conduct continuous joint law enforcement operations against the lawless elements like the BIFF, in collaboration with the PNP,” Coloma said. He explained that the government aims to achieve this while “preventing collateral damage on civilian communities.”  CONTINUE READING....

ALSO: AFP chief Catapang orders ‘all-out offensive’ vs BIFF


Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO
MANILA, Philippines ― Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday ordered the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) to launch “all-out offensive operations” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Catapang said that the operation aimed against the BIFF is a measure seeking to protect the communities from assaults launched by the rebel group. “I am saddened by the news that at least 20,000 people had been displaced by the violent attacks perpetrated by the BIFF in the hinterland villages. We will do our best to protect the people and allow them to go back to their homes,” Catapang said in a statement. The AFP chief ordered all its unit commanders to conduct “joint law enforcement operations” with the Philippine National Police to avoid clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). READ MORE...

ALSO: AFP launches all-out offensive against BIFF


GOING AFTER BIFF Army troops arrive in Pikit, North Cotabato province, on Wednesday after Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff, ordered an “all-out” operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members have been attacking communities in the province since last week. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO
Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday ordered an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao where the Moro insurgent group launched a series of bomb attacks to terrorize local communities. Catapang said the BIFF, which with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had been held responsible for the massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, had also formed an alliance with the group of terrorist Basit Usman, who is on the government’s wanted list. READ MORE...

ALSO BIFF on AFP all-out war: We will die fighting


In this picture shows Abu Misri Mama (left), the spokesman of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, at their camp in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. PHOTO BY JEOFFREY MAITEM / INQUIRER MINDANAO  DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) said it will welcome government’s all-out war with heavy resistance. Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF, even challenged President Benigno Aquino III and other politicians who are supporting the calls for war to grab a gun and join the fighting. “It’s up to them. We will welcome them with heavy resistance even if Aquino and the senators will join them,” Mama told the Inquirer by phone Wednesday afternoon. Mama said that no volume of combat operations will force them to surrender and stop fighting. “Surrender? No way. We will never surrender. We will die fighting,” Mama said. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO BIFF to gov’t forces: ‘We’ll use SAF guns against them’


BIFF, Abu Sayyaf pledge allegiance to Islamic State jihadists--- Exclusive photographs of rebel spokesman Abu Misry Mama and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement by Retired Analyst
MANILA, Philippines – The firearms taken from elite cops killed in the bloody Mamasapano clash will remain spoils of war and will be used against government forces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) said Friday. BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, said they “won’t return” the weapons since they “did not borrow” them. “Kumbaga sa boxing, knockdown sila. Kaya sa amin yun (If we talk about boxing, they were knocked down. So that’s ours,” he said. “Ibabaril namin sa kanila (We’ll use it against them),” he explained when asked what they will do with the 10 firearms confiscated from the fallen Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers. READ MORE...

ALSO: Gov't taps MILF for all-out offensive vs BIFF


President Benigno Aquino III on the day of the signging of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañang on October 15, 2012. Photo from Malacañang
MANILA, Philippines - Amid doubts on the rebel group's commitment to peace following the Mamasapano incident, government forces are now working with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Malacañang said Thursday. Based on a report he received, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are coordinating with MILF elements in areas where there are operations against the BIFF. "Sila ay katuwang natin sa prosesong pangkapayaan at 'yung mga lugar na pinangyayarihan ay kasama sa mga lugar na sakop ng FAB at CAB," Coloma said in the regular press briefing at the Palace. READ MORE...


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Aquino hits ‘enemies of peace’; ‘Critics must lay out alternative solution’


President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech at the Edsa Shrine during the 29th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution on Wednesday. Acting as interpreter using sign language is Fr. Luke Moortgat. LYN RILLON

MANILA, MARCH 2, 2015 (INQUIRER) Christian V. Esguerra @inquirerdotnet - A month after the Mamasapano fiasco, a defiant President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday launched his own offensive against critics of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying he would not yield to “enemies of peace” in Mindanao.

In a speech on the 29th anniversary of the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, the President stressed that he continued to trust the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), despite the massacre of 44 police commandos in Maguindanao province last Jan. 25.

Mr. Aquino recalled how MILF leaders “made us feel their trust and confidence [and] that they would also be our partners, along with the rest of the Bangsamoro, in the search for peace.”

“If we give in to the enemies of peace, it’s as if we’re also allowing the conflict in Mindanao to worsen. If we surrender the establishment of the Bangsamoro, it’s like we’re allowing them to bequeath arms to the next generation of our fellow Filipinos,” Mr. Aquino said at the packed Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace at the corner of Edsa and Ortigas Avenue.

“We would never allow this to happen. It’s only by attaining lasting peace that all the sacrifices will be worth it for those who fought in Edsa, including those who lost their lives to end fear and violence in society.”

Focus on BBL

The slaughter of SAF troopers has raised questions over the MILF’s sincerity in talking peace. With the signing of a peace agreement last year, the focus is now on the passage of a law creating a new Bangsamoro territory in Mindanao.

Despite the Mamasapano debacle, Mr. Aquino insisted that this stage of the peace process was a “golden opportunity where peace in Mindanao is now within reach.”

“To those saying that we should stop the peace process and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, our question is: How sure are they that we would again get this opportunity?” he said.

Mr. Aquino’s 10-minute address did not touch on the controversies of the Mamasapano operation that killed 44 members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) at the hands of MILF fighters and other armed groups but said that it should not “spark more violence.”

‘Desperate’ take advantage

“For us who experienced Edsa, we are aware of the positive effect of sobriety. Instead of giving in to anger and emotion, let us give way to reason, trust and love for one another,” he said.

Mr. Aquino assailed people allegedly “taking advantage of this incident,” saying “as we get closer to our aspiration (of lasting peace in Mindanao), those against it become even more desperate.”

“It would be better that aside from criticism, they can also lay out an alternative solution,” he said. “That’s why we cannot help but think: They don’t want peace because they’re benefiting from the conflict. They want Filipinos to go their separate ways, lose their trust in one another, so they can pursue their own agenda.”

The President again recalled his father’s killing. A picture of the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. shortly after the assassination was flashed on the big screen. “I looked back at this story, not to seek sympathy for myself, but to emphasize the lesson it brings.”

In his homily, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged Filipinos to “work toward the eradication of this mentality, this atmosphere that makes people enemies.”

“The path to peace is finding a neighbor, a brother, a sister. When I don’t see anyone anymore as an enemy, I don’t have to fight. I don’t have to wage any fight. Why will you fight a brother or a sister?” he said.

7 business groups’ support

In a joint statement on Wednesday, seven business groups expressed support for Mr. Aquino’s peace initiatives.

“In the midst of national mourning, certain sectors and political players have openly called for an all-out war in Mindanao, branded our brother and sister Muslim Filipinos as terrorists, cast doubt on the Bangsamoro peace process and the sincerity of the negotiators, and vigorously demanded the resignation of the President,” the statement said.

“As members of the Philippine business community, we do not and will not support such calls. We call instead for sobriety, courage and unity,” it said.

Signatories to the joint statement were the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Mindanao Business Council and the Philippine Business for Social Progress.

The groups pointed out that the Philippines had achieved much under the stewardship of Mr. Aquino, particularly in restoring integrity and good governance.

But they said that the facts surrounding Mamasapano must still be satisfactorily established and justice must be dispensed. They said investigations must be completed at the earliest time possible and that the President “ultimately will have no choice but to render a full accounting on Mamasapano to the Filipino people.”

BBL timetable

Minority lawmakers said on Wednesday that Mr. Aquino during a meeting with congressmen on Monday in Malacañang ordered the passage of the proposed BBL before June this year.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who was present in the meeting, said that the President’s marching orders were to approve the draft BBL “without diluting it too much.”

Rodriguez confirmed that the BBL ad hoc committee which he chaired would resume next week in compliance with the President’s orders to have it approved at the committee level on March 18 (when Congress takes its Lenten break) and the BBL approved at plenary before June 11 (when Congress adjourns sine die).

But this early, Rodriguez said that the President should be ready for a big disappointment because even his allies were expected to cut at least five alleged unconstitutional provisions in the draft charter.

Creeping expansion

Rodriguez also said that the representatives would chop off a patently illegal provision which would allow “a creeping territorial expansion” for the Bangsamoro—the opt-in provision in which residents in contiguous areas could join it with as little as 10 percent of residents petitioning for such a switch.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday said the President might need to meet senators to get the BBL passed by June. He told reporters the March deadline was too tight.

He said the meeting was needed “to discuss the timetable on the BBL, to emphasize the need to pass the measure, maybe in a modified form.”

Vice President Jejomar Binay warned against railroading the BBL. “This should be given a thorough study. It should not be passed because of the deadline,” he said. “This is something that needs a lot of time, and not something that should be controlled by time.” With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan, TJ Burgonio and Nikko Dizon


INQUIRER

Aquino wants AFP to ‘relentlessly pursue’ BIFF Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ INQUIRER.net 5:15 PM | Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III is all for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ all-out-offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Malacanang said Wednesday.

“The guidance of the President to our security forces is to relentlessly pursue both lawless elements and terrorist groups,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told INQUIRER.net after Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered joint law enforcement operations with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

“Based on this guidance, the AFP reports that CSAFP, Gen. Gregorio Catapang has directed his operational commanders to conduct continuous joint law enforcement operations against the lawless elements like the BIFF, in collaboration with the PNP,” Coloma said.

He explained that the government aims to achieve this while “preventing collateral damage on civilian communities.”

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and its breakaway group, the BIFF, were involved in the Mamasapano debacle, which left 44 policemen dead last January 25. While the PNP Special Action Force (SAF) succeeded in killing international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, it was involved in a so-called misencounter with the MILF and the BIFF.

The BIFF, which has repeatedly rejected the current peace negotiations of the MILF and the Philippine government, is considered a lawless group by the Aquino administration.


INQUIRER

AFP chief Catapang orders ‘all-out offensive’ vs BIFF Aries Joseph Hegina @inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net 2:19 PM | Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


Armed Forces chief of staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines ― Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday ordered the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) to launch “all-out offensive operations” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Catapang said that the operation aimed against the BIFF is a measure seeking to protect the communities from assaults launched by the rebel group.

“I am saddened by the news that at least 20,000 people had been displaced by the violent attacks perpetrated by the BIFF in the hinterland villages. We will do our best to protect the people and allow them to go back to their homes,” Catapang said in a statement.

The AFP chief ordered all its unit commanders to conduct “joint law enforcement operations” with the Philippine National Police to avoid clashes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Meanwhile, amid the perceived rift between the AFP and the PNP following the bloody Mamasapano clash, Catapang called for government security forces to be united against “lawlessness and terrorism.”

“We must remain united in our common fight against lawlessness and terrorism. Let us show the enemies of the state that we are a formidable force that will continuously pursue them anywhere they go,” he added.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development and local government units in the towns of Pagalungan and Pikit in Cotabato province have been ordered to provide humanitarian assistance for the displaced residents.

According to Inquirer sources, the military offensive against the BIFF started late last Friday.


INQUIRER

AFP launches all-out offensive against BIFF Cynthia D. Balana, Karlos Manlupig | Inquirer Mindanao 2:06 AM | Thursday, February 26th, 2015


GOING AFTER BIFF Army troops arrive in Pikit, North Cotabato province, on Wednesday after Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Armed Forces chief of staff, ordered an “all-out” operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose members have been attacking communities in the province since last week. JEOFFREY MAITEM/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday ordered an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao where the Moro insurgent group launched a series of bomb attacks to terrorize local communities.

Catapang said the BIFF, which with the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had been held responsible for the massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, had also formed an alliance with the group of terrorist Basit Usman, who is on the government’s wanted list.

Catapang said the offensives were meant to protect the communities against the BIFF, which broke away from the MILF, the main Moro insurgent group, when the latter went into peace negotiations with the government and signed a peace agreement last year.

According to reports, the BIFF earlier raided Kabasalan Complex in Pikit, North Cotabato province, and fought MILF forces in Pagalungan, Maguindanao, burning down at least 15 houses, resulting in 25,000 civilian evacuees.

“I am saddened by the news that at least 20,000 people had been displaced by the violent attacks perpetrated by the BIFF in the hinterland villages,” Catapang said.

“We will do our best to protect the people and allow them to go back to their homes,” he added.

Tactical alliance with Usman

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office, said the all-out offensive was meant to neutralize the BIFF.

“This is aimed at arresting those responsible in previous bombings in Central Mindanao and other parts of Mindanao. There is a tactical alliance between the BIFF and the group of Usman,” Cabunoc said.

A spokesperson for the BIFF on Wednesday said it would meet the government’s all-out war with “heavy resistance.”

Abu Misri Mama, the BIFF spokesperson, even challenged President Aquino and politicians supporting the calls for war to grab a gun and join the fighting.

“It’s up to them. We will welcome them with heavy resistance even if Aquino and the senators join them,” Mama said in a phone interview.

Mama said no amount of combat operations would make them surrender and stop fighting.

‘Surrender? No way’

“Surrender? No way. We will never surrender. We will die fighting,” he said.

However, the BIFF’s resistance will be based on the situation as required by a guerrilla war, he said.

“According to the principles of guerrilla warfare, if the enemy is strong we will withdraw and we will attack if they are tired and confused. Our response will depend on the situation,” Mama said.

Mama claimed that when they were still with the MILF during the all-out war of then President Joseph Estrada in 2000, their forces suffered minimal casualties.

“Only 10 died in our unit during the all-out war while the stench of the dead soldiers was in the air in Matanog, Maguindanao. We will again foil this new all-out war,” Mama said.

Concern for civilians

He said their only concern were the civilians who will be greatly affected by the hostilities.

“This all-out war will really affect the civilians. The soldiers cannot easily see us but the firing and bombings will displace the residents. Thousands will flee to evacuation centers,” Mama said.

Cabunoc said that based on the latest intelligence reports, Usman was last spotted in Maguindanao. He said the military had a sufficient number of troops in the area to carry out Catapang’s order.

He thanked the MILF for extending coordination and support to the government. He said the MILF had been providing relevant information and assisting in monitoring the movements of the BIFF.

Cabunoc said neutralizing the BIFF would not be easy as the extremist group’s members were highly mobile and usually sought refuge in civilian communities to evade pursuing soldiers.

He said that as of press time on Wednesday, there had been no firefight between government forces and the BIFF.

“We are closely monitoring the situation,” he said.

Catapang said government forces would remain strong and united against a common enemy.

“We must remain united in our common fight against lawlessness and terrorism. Let us show the enemies of the state that we are a formidable force that will continuously pursue them anywhere they go,” he said.


INQUIRER

BIFF on AFP all-out war: We will die fighting Karlos Manlupig @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Mindanao 3:48 PM | Wednesday, February 25th, 2015


In this picture shows Abu Misri Mama (left), the spokesman of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, at their camp in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. PHOTO BY JEOFFREY MAITEM / INQUIRER MINDANAO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) said it will welcome government’s all-out war with heavy resistance.

Abu Misri Mama, spokesperson of the BIFF, even challenged President Benigno Aquino III and other politicians who are supporting the calls for war to grab a gun and join the fighting.

“It’s up to them. We will welcome them with heavy resistance even if Aquino and the senators will join them,” Mama told the Inquirer by phone Wednesday afternoon. Mama said that no volume of combat operations will force them to surrender and stop fighting.

“Surrender? No way. We will never surrender. We will die fighting,” Mama said.

However, Mama explained that their resistance will be based on the situation as required by a guerrilla war.

“The principles of guerrilla warfare said that if the enemy is strong we will withdraw and we will attack if they are tired and confused. Our response will depend on the situation,” Mama said.

Mama narrated that when they were still with the MILF during the all-out war declared by then President Joseph Estrada, their forces suffered minimal casualties.

“Only 10 died in our unit during the all-out war while the stench of the dead soldiers was in the air in Matanog, Maguindanao. We will again fail this new all-out war,” Mama said.

But Mama said that their only concern are the civilians who will be greatly affected by the hostilities.

“This all-out war of will really affect the civilians. The soldiers cannot easily see us but the firing and bombings will displace the residents. Thousands will flee in evacuation centers,” Mama said.


INQUIRER

BIFF to gov’t forces: ‘We’ll use SAF guns against them’ Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ INQUIRER.net 11:42 AM | Friday, February 20th, 2015


BIFF, Abu Sayyaf pledge allegiance to Islamic State jihadists--- Exclusive photographs of rebel spokesman Abu Misry Mama and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement by Retired Analyst

MANILA, Philippines – The firearms taken from elite cops killed in the bloody Mamasapano clash will remain spoils of war and will be used against government forces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) said Friday.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama, over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, said they “won’t return” the weapons since they “did not borrow” them.

“Kumbaga sa boxing, knockdown sila. Kaya sa amin yun (If we talk about boxing, they were knocked down. So that’s ours,” he said.

“Ibabaril namin sa kanila (We’ll use it against them),” he explained when asked what they will do with the 10 firearms confiscated from the fallen Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) troopers.

The BIFF was among the groups that clashed with the SAF last January 25 during an operation against international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan.

Unlike the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the BIFF has refused to return the weapons and equipment taken from the 44 policemen killed in the alleged misencounter. The MILF already returned 16 firearms but the government is asking for more, including the prosecution of those involved in the slaying of the policemen.

No casualties

Mama boasted that their fighters were veterans.

“Sa aming panig noong kasagsagan ng laban ay walang namatay (From our side, at the height of the battle, not one died),” he said.

He said it was the SAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines that are terrorizing Mindanao.

“Kulang pa sa kanila yung mga narecover namin na mga baril (The firearms we recovered from them are not even enough),” he said.

Is Marwan still alive?

Mama also denied that they knew about Marwan.

“Hindi ko alam kung buhay si Marwan dahil wala akong kilalang Marwan (I don’t know if Marwan is alive because I don’t know anyone by the name of Marwan),” he said when asked about rumors that Marwan was still alive.

Earlier reports said Marwan’s finger was cut off to serve as DNA sample. It was the US Federal Bureau of Investigation that confirmed that the DNA sample was from Marwan.

No war with MILF

Mama pointed out that it was not true that they are being pursued by the MILF. He said it was only Commander Jack Abas who is targeting them, following the orders of North Cotabato Governor Lala Mendoza.

“Kasi ito’y politically motivated ni Governor Lala Mendoza. Binayaran nya si Commander Jack ng MILF para patalsikin ang mga Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters sa area,” he said.

(This is politically motivated by Governor Lala Mendoza. She paid Commander Jack of the MILF to expel the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters from the area.)

Mama said BIFF founder Ameril Umbra Kato personally wrote to MILF chair Al Haj Murad to stop the fighting. Murad reportedly “welcomed” the letter although Abas has yet to stand down.

But MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in a separate interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, said their fighters are engaging the BIFF because of a territory dispute.

“Actually ang naging ugat ng problema na yan nagpapalawak ng teritoryo ang BIFF. Kahit na yung teritoryo ng MILF ay gusto nilang pasukin (Actually the root of the problem was the BIFF’s plan to expand its territory. They want to enter even the territory of the MILF),” he said.

The BIFF is the armed group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, which broke away from the MILF at the height of the peace talks. However, the two groups were accused of working together during the bloody clash in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao, which left 44 policemen, 18 MILF fighters and at least five civilians dead.

The MILF was accused of coordinating with the BIFF during the said clash but Mama denied this. He said they are neither enemies nor allies of the MILF.

He insisted that what they wanted was an Islamic state and not the autonomous political entity proposed in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

BIFF refuses to return firearms of fallen SAF commandos Karlos Manlupig @inquirerdotnet  Inquirer Mindanao  6:21 PM | Tuesday, February 10th, 2015

Abu Misry Mama: ‘Why should we? We will seize more in future clashes’

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has said neither the Senate nor the Moro Islamic Liberation Front can force them to return the firearms that they “recovered” from the scene of the firefight in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.

In a defensive position deep inside Maguindanao anticipating retaliation from government forces, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misri Mama said they had no plans of surrendering the firearms and other equipment of the fallen Special Action Force commandos and added they would seize more weapons and munitions in future encounters.

“We have no plans of returning the firearms. Why would we? In fact, we will seize more firearms and ammunition from government forces in future operations,” Mama said.

The BIFF took at least 10 rifles — including a baby Armalite, four M16, a Bushmaster, two baby Armalites with M203 grenade launchers, an M16 with M203 grenade launcher and a 90mm recoilless rifle during the 11-hour firefight, Mama claimed.

The seized firearms will then be issued to new members or existing fighters who do not have weapons for actual combat, according to Mama.

At the Senate, several senators and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that criminal charges could be filed against the Moro rebels who took part in the slaughter of Special Action Force commandos of the Philippine National Police. To this, Mama said he could not see why they should be charged for just simply defending their positions from police commandos who maneuvered through the camp of the BIFF 1st Brigade.

The rebel group’s 1st Bridge is under the 1st Division led by Kagi Mohaiden “Karialan” Animbang, according to Mama.

“The SAF intruded into our area and attacked us. Why blame us for it? They failed in the operation so it is their fault,” Mama said.

With Senator Alan Peter Cayetano pinpointing the blame on the MILF and the BIFF for allegedly coddling Malaysian bomber Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in the area, Mama said no one could really say if the MILF was really protecting the Malaysian bombing suspect.

“They cannot say that Marwan was really inside the MILF territory the same way that they cannot say that he was inside our territory. Mamasapano is a huge town with several barangays. There are MILF, BIFF, soldiers, local government and even cops in Mamasapano. These groups co-exist in this area. Now how can they say who is protecting who?” Mama said.

President Aquino earlier vowed to get Abdul Basit Usman, an alleged bomb maker with links to the Jemaah Islamiyah and the Abu Sayyaf and with a $1-million bounty on his head offered by the US State Department since 2009.

He was reportedly killed in air strikes in Pakistan and in Mindanao but military sources claimed that he was alive and was operating in Mindanao.

Sources said Usman was allegedly in the same area when Marwan was killed and tried to fight back to repel the SAF commandos.

“If the government knows where Usman is, then they should get him immediately,” Mama said.

Mama claimed that they have never provided shelter for a Basit Usman in their camps after they broke away from the MILF.

“There are many Usmans in Maguindanao but no one is named Basit. I have a cousin who is Usman but he is not a bomber,” Mama said.

The rebel spokesman said that he was not defending Usman but it offended him that Moros or Arabs who have been “fighting for their land and freedom” have been labeled as terrorists by the US government.

Mama also accused the US government of “terrorizing” other countries for its economic interest and then tag those who have resisted as terrorists.

“The US government terrorized the Middle East for oil. They are intruders because the Arabs are the native inhabitants in that area. The same thing is happening in Mindanao most especially in Liguasan Marsh for its oil deposits,” Mama said.

In a document released by Wikileaks, the US Embassy in Manila has wired a “sensitive but unclassified” message to the Central Intelligence Agency, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United States Pacific Command saying that 70 percent of the US$80 billion to US$1 trillion worth of mineral resources in the country is in Mindanao, including natural gas and oil deposits.

According to Department of Energy reports, the Cotabato Basin, which includes the Liguasan Marsh, has an estimated 202 million barrels of oil and at least 821 billion cubic feet of gas while the Sulu Sea has at least 209 million barrels of oil and 716 billion cubic feet of gas.

Militant groups like Bagong Alyansang Makabayan has asserted that this is the reason behind the presence of US forces in the country allegedly under the guise of joint military exercises and humanitarian reason.

But for now, Mama said they would wait and see what would be the next move of the government.


PHILSTAR

Gov't taps MILF for all-out offensive vs BIFF By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated February 26, 2015 - 2:44pm


Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim presents a gong as a gift to President Benigno Aquino III on the day of the signging of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañang on October 15, 2012. Photo from Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines - Amid doubts on the rebel group's commitment to peace following the Mamasapano incident, government forces are now working with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in an all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Malacañang said Thursday.

Based on a report he received, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are coordinating with MILF elements in areas where there are operations against the BIFF.

"Sila ay katuwang natin sa prosesong pangkapayaan at 'yung mga lugar na pinangyayarihan ay kasama sa mga lugar na sakop ng FAB at CAB," Coloma said in the regular press briefing at the Palace.

The FAB and the CAB stand for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, respectively. These were signed by the national government and the MILF after years of peace negotiations.

The BIFF broke away from the MILF as they opposed the Bangsamoro peace process. While the latter has observed a ceasefire with the government, the BIFF has launched attacks in Mindanao.

The latest BIFF attack was in Kabasalan Village in Pikit, North Cotabato where 17 houses were burned and at least 20,000 civilians were affected. This prompted the AFP on Wednesday to launch an all-out assault on the BIFF.

Malacañang said President Aquino has reminded the AFP to ensure that the offensive against the BIFF will spare civilians.

"Mahalagang elemento rin ng pagsasagawa ng operasyon ay 'yung pagpatnubay ng Pangulo na sa pagkilos nila sa lugar na 'yon, kinakailangang tiyakin din na hindi magkakaroon ng collateral damage sa mga civilian communities," Coloma said.

The AFP said earlier that unit commanders had also been reminded to coordinate with the PNP to avoid clashes with the MILF.

The all-out offensive against the BIFF comes after the January 25 police operation against Malaysian terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, and his Filipino cohort, Abdul Basit Usman.

Marwan was believed to be killed in the operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao but 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force were also slain in an encounter with MILF and BIFF combatants.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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