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COTABATO CITY — Maguindanao officials are urging the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to join the Mindanao peace process, saying this is in line with the tenets of Islam.

“The call of the government peace panel is a viable option for a win-win solution. This has been our wish expressed for years because it will preserve every gains of our painstaking campaign in transforming our province from the morass of feudalism and corruption,” Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said.

Earlier, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chairperson of the government panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the BIFF can best explain its goals and objectives through dialogue.

“We ask them to listen to the plea of their own brothers and sisters to give peace a chance,” Ferrer said.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council (PPOC), said the MILF leadership should continue persuading the BIFF to join efforts at peaceful solutions to the decades-old Moro issue.

The founding leader of BIFF, Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, used to head the MILF’s 105th Base Command. He bolted MILF and formed BIFF after the MILF reopened talks with the government for more autonomy. The MILF eventually expelled him after he led bloody attacks on civilian targets in 2010.

Mangudadatu said the PPOC believed that there is still a possibility for Kato and the MILF leadership to come to terms and reconcile in the name of Islam, which literally means peace, and for the sake of meaningful development in Maguindanao and its environs.

“Everybody is a loser in war but the civilians suffer most in the perennial cycle of evacuations,” he said.

More than 10,000 residents fled their homes recently when the BIFF launched attacks in Pikit, North Cotabato and three towns in Maguindanao days after the MILF and government peace panels signed the fourth and final annex on normalization of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

The attacks prompted a military response in which more than 50 people were killed. (MB)


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