Cotabato City now formally part of Bangsamoro region

Robie de Guzman   •   December 15, 2020   •   489

The supervision of Cotabato City has been formally turned over to the Bangsamoro government on Tuesday, almost two years since its residents voted for its inclusion in the region.

The turnover ceremony was led by Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Philippine National Police chief General Debold Sinas.

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim earlier welcomed the city, which previously opposed its inclusion in the Bangsamoro region.

“We are committed to upscaling services that can further boost the potential of Cotabato City, unique with its own context and in support to its existing resources,” Ebrahim said in a statement released last December 12.

He also said that the plebiscite held in January 2019 for the city’s inclusion “revealed the will of the majority of the people in Cotabato City.”

“Through this process, they democratically signified their desire to join the rest of the region in our shared quest for lasting peace, development and right to self-determination,” Ebrahim added.

Cotabato City will be the region’s third city, along with Lamitan City in Basilan, and Lanao del Sur’s capital Marawi City.

It has been the regional administrative seat of the replaced Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), yet it had not been part of the region due to its non-inclusion vote during the plebiscites in 1989 and 2001.

However, on January 21, 2019, a majority of 36,682 residents of Cotabato City voted in favor of joining the newly formed BARMM, signifying a new hope for a more progressive region.

Duterte asks BARMM officials to help gov’t deal with BIFF, terrorist groups

Robie de Guzman   •   May 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has appealed to leaders of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to help the national government deal with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other terrorist groups to prevent an “all-out offensive” against the militants.

Duterte made the appeal during his meeting with BARMM officials, police and military commanders in 6th Infantry Division (6ID) at Camp Brigadier General Gonzalo Siongco in Datu Odin, Sinsuat, Maguindanao on Tuesday.

“Nagmamakaawa ako sa inyo, tulungan ninyo ako. Because otherwise, if I give the order for an all-out offensive, it will be bloody and it will be sad,” he said.

The president also asked Bangsamoro authorities to refuse terrorist groups seeking sanctuary in their communities to stop any violence and prevent him from using force.

“This cannot go on. Kung hindi ko mapigilan and there will be an all-out offensive, yan na ang problema. If I give the order, I will no longer withdraw it,” he said.

Duterte visited Maguindanao following the clash between soldiers and some BIFF members last Saturday.

Around 20 BIFF members occupied the Datu Paglas public market but state security forces drove them away before they could attack civilian residents.

Duterte to visit Cotabato following BIFF attack in Maguindanao – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte will head to Cotabato on Tuesday following the clash between soldiers and some members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) over the weekend, Malacañang said.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the president will meet with the officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), and government security troops to discuss the incident in Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

“Siya po ay makikipag-ugnayan sa BARMM officials, sa ating kapulisan, sa ating kasundaluhan at pag-uusapan nila kung paano maiiwasan yung insidente nga nung Linggo, kung saan ilang armadong miyembro ng BIFF ay panandaliang nag-occupy ng Datu Paglas pero sandali lang naman iyon at napaalis din sila ng hukbong sandatahan,” Roque said in an online briefing.

“Ang objective po ng Presidente, para iparating ang mensahe na hindi po niya puwedeng pabayaan ang kaniyang katungkulan na ipatupad ang batas,” he added.

On Saturday, around 20 BIFF members led by Mohiden Animbang a.k.a. Karialan occupied the Datu Paglas public market but state security forces drove them away before they could attack civilian residents.

“Dahil nga po doon sa insidente kung saan ilang miyembro ng BIFF ay panandaliang nagtungo sa Datu Paglas, ang kaniyang mensahe, ang warning niya po talaga, ipatutupad niya ang batas at hindi niya kukunsintihin ang paggamit ng dahas diyan po sa Maguindanao,” Roque said.

The military earlier said that the situation in Datu Paglas has already normalized but assured that security forces “will not rest until the threat is neutralized.”

Local officials and residents in Maguindanao were also urged to remain vigilant despite the thwarted attack of the armed group.

Terror threats in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi declined in past 2 years – WestMinCom

Robie de Guzman   •   May 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The number of terrorist threats observed in the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao have significantly dropped in the last two years, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said.

Data from the military’s Joint Task Force (JTF) Sulu showed that from July 1, 2020 to May 2, 2021, the force had 38 encounters with Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and has neutralized 260 of its members; 34 of which were killed, 42 apprehended, and 184 surrendered.

In the first quarter of 2021, JTF Sulu said ASG now only have 132 of its manpower compared to its 282 and 145 members in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

The military also observed a significant decrease in ASG’s firearms this year with only 147 left when it used to possess 330 weapons in 2019 and 155 in 2020.

The JTF Sulu further said that there was also no recorded terrorist acts perpetrated by the local group this year, noting that their last attack was the two explosions in Brgy. Walled City in Jolo, Sulu on August 24 last year.

According to JTF Sulu, it is its mission to conduct military operation to defeat ASG, and support the government peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in order to “significantly contribute to the peace, security, and development efforts of the Government in Sulu province.”

“Military action is only a small factor in combatting terrorism, the major factor here is the assistance (from the Bangsamoro Government),” Vinluan was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Bangsamoro government.

“We need your help to finally end the conflict in Sulu,” he added.

For his part, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ebrahim said the interim Bangsamoro Government has been put to place to assure that the people gets its well-deserved peace and sustainable development after years of conflict and unrest.

“When we signed the peace agreement with the national government, we knew that this transition period would not be an easy track. We also acknowledge that there are still splinter groups and extremist organizations that would provide challenges in the process,” Ebrahim said.

“We are fortunate that in this journey, we have our dear partners from the security sector to help us out in maintaining order. Troops whom we once faced at the other side of the fence – now working with us, side by side, one in building a Bangsamoro that we can be proud of,” he added.

Vinluan and the JTF Sulu commanders paid courtesy visit to Ebrahim and other BARMM officials on Monday, May 3, at the Bangsamoro Government Center in Cotabato City.

The visit was particularly aimed at providing the BARMM government an update regarding the security situation and development challenges in the province of Sulu, a stronghold of local terrorist ASG.

 

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