Hundreds of BIFF fighters 'willing to rejoin' MILF, work with gov't

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 22) — Two of three factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a breakaway group from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, are in talks with the transitional government for possible cooperation, an official said Friday.

Bangsamoro Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim said more than 900 BIFF members "already pronounced that they are willing to rejoin the MILF."

Following decades of negotiations with the Philippine government, the MILF is now leading the Bangsamoro Transition Authority. The 80-member body serves as the interim government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region until 2022 unless its term is extended by a new law.

It's been two years since the region was created through the Bangsamoro Organic Law. In a media briefing, Ebrahim said some BIFF members were supposed to join the MILF in time for the Bangsamoro region's second anniversary celebration on Thursday.

"We met some challenges because some of the commanders facing warrants of arrest will have to work out first these warrants before they can come out and rejoin the MILF," Ebrahim said.

"There's another group that's not part of the dialogue, it's not responding positively to the dialogue," he added.

The Philippine National Police recently filed complaints against BIFF leaders Salahudin "Salah" Hasan and Animbang "Commander Karialan" Indong, and dozens of other members for the attack on a police station and military detachment in Datu Piang, Maguindanao in December.

Ebrahim said the transitional government is engaging the BIFF in dialogue while beefing up security as well.

"Kapag hindi nakaya sa dialogue (If it is not resolved through dialogue), then the security arm of the government will be the final option," he said.

Under the law, the Philippine National Police will also organize, maintain, and supervise a Police Regional Office in the Bangsamoro, which can be joined by members of the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front.

Ebrahim said this needs further discussion. In the meantime, the Joint Peace and Security Team will maintain order, composed of PNP and Armed Forces personnel, as well as MILF members who have not been decommissioned.

Bangsamoro officials are now asking Congress to extend the transition period for three more years, or until 2025, to ensure a successful implementation of the peace agreement.

READ: ‘Give us a chance to succeed’: Bangsamoro officials plead for extended transition period