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Solon to BIFF: Let peace talks run its course

Let the peace talks between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) run its course.

This was Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong’s message to so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) even as government forces continue to clash with the Muslim rebel splinter group following the completion of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

“They should let the negotiation run its course. Since the inception of the peace talks, they made it clear that they’re opposed to it. What the military is doing right now is law enforcement because these people are not covered by the ceasefire of the government,” the Lanao 2nd district representative told a news forum at the House of Representatives.

Pointing to the BIFF insurgency, Balindong said, “This should not stand in the way of peace talks with the MILF.”

He expressed confidence that the Bangsamoro government would eventually address the issue of peace and order in the region once Congress approves its basic laws, which are currently being drafted by the Transitory Commission.

“They can’t address it now because they have yet to organize. They will establish a regional police force in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP). They still don’t have that power,” the Deputy Speaker said.

For his part, Basilan Representative Jim Hataman-Salliman asked the members of the splinter group “to give the negotiations a chance,” noting the decades-long insurgency problem in Mindanao has stunted its economic growth.

“If it’s possible, they should give the negotiations a chance. I also appeal to the political leaders in the area. The fighting has persisted for so long. Even if they’re not saying it, everybody hopes for an end to the fighting,” Salliman told reporters.

The Basilan solon heads the House Committee on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity, which would take up the Bangsamoro draft laws once the Commission submits it to the Lower Chamber. He vowed to prioritize the matter.

Salliman said he does not view the BIFF activity as a means to sabotage the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement, since rebel fighting only takes place in small pockets in Mindanao.