PNP on offensive mode vs BIFF over 'heightened' recruitment activities, attacks amid COVID-19

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — The Philippine National Police moved to an offensive mode against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) amid the latter's increased attacks and recruitment efforts, the newly-installed chief said Sunday.

PNP Chief General Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar issued the directive Sunday, claiming the BIFF was "exploiting" the coronavirus pandemic to gain more members and inflict violence.

"I agree with our Presidential Peace Adviser, Sec. Carlito Galvez, that it is easy now for the BIFF to recruit members because the pandemic has severely affected the livelihood of many people in Mindanao," he said.

To suppress the recruitment and attacks, the official said the PNP would further strengthen its police operations against the group.

"Mas paiigtingin pa natin ang presensya ng pulis para hindi na makaporma pa ang grupong ito," Eleazar said.

[Translation: We will intensify the police presence so that this group can no longer pose threats.]

"We have not and cannot let our guards down against these local terror groups," he added.

READ: Duterte tells BIFF: Stop causing trouble, inflicting violence to civilians

Just last week, President Rodrigo Duterte issued a warning to the BIFF to stop its attacks.

In a speech before officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Duterte asked for help to control rebels in the region to avoid an “all-out offensive.”

This came after an armed encounter between government forces and BIFF members who stormed a public market in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao on May 8. The clash forced many residents to evacuate the area.