COTABATO CITY – Residents of a town in Maguindanao frequently harassed by the Islamic State-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Tuesday stood up against the group’s terror activities.
“Enough is enough,” said officials and residents of Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao, led by Mayor Yacob Ampatuan, as they marched around town in a peace rally and condemned the atrocities carried out by BIFF against their community.
Carrying placards and banners, the residents denounced the atrocities of the BIFF, which has also been harassing and mulcting farmers during harvest season.
Village officials, business people, women’s groups, non-government organizations, former Moro Islamic Liberation Front members, and Muslim religious leaders attended the peace rally.
“Hindi nakakatulong sa amin ang terorismo, wag niyo kami idamay, hindi kayo welcome dito sa aming bayan (Terrorism does not help us. Do not touch us. You are not welcome here in our town),” some of the streamers read.
“The people have spoken, the BIFF is persona non-grata in our town,” Ampatuan said.
Kedtag Salamat, a villager, said he had witnessed countless harassment by the BIFF in the past and he wanted to live peacefully and productively with his family in one of 11 villages in Rajah Buayan.
“Our town has no BIFF. The terrorists are from other areas but they conduct harassment against our people, especially during harvest season,” Salamat said in the vernacular.
After the walk around town, the peace rally participants proceeded to the town’s covered court and set fire to a black flag that symbolizes the root causes of the conflict in the locality – drugs, and terrorism.
Kagui Salman, another villager, said the works of the BIFF hinder the development of the communities and education of the children so it must stop.
“We are glad our local officials have taken this stance against the BIFF,” Salman said in Maguindanaon dialect.
Without providing statistics, he said many innocent civilians have either been harmed or killed by the BIFF for refusing to share “revolutionary taxes” with the armed group.
The Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion stationed in the town provided security to the assembly participants. (PNA)