SURRENDER. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters sub-commander Lapu-Lapu (in striped shirt) hands over his rifle to Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu during Wednesday’s (Oct. 10, 2018) surrender rites in Barangay Midconding, General Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao. Looking on is Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc (right), Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion chief (Photo courtesy of 33rd IB)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao – Six members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have surrendered to the government after the Army mediated and settled a long-standing family feud involving them and another Muslim family.

The militants personally surrendered their weapons Wednesday to Army Lt. Colonel Harold Cabunoc, the commander of the 33rd Infantry Battalion, in Barangay Midconding, Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao.

BIFF commander Lapu-Lapu, 55, and five of his men handed over to Cabunoc and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu six firearms that included two rocket-propelled grenades, an M16 rifle, a Mosin Nagant bolt-action rifle and a .45-caliber pistol as witnessed by Midconding village officials.

Minutes after the handover of weapons, Cabunoc accompanied the surrenderers and their relatives to the idle 80-hectare farmland that was left untouched due to intermittent clashes between them and Saotin Sanday, leader of an armed farmers’ group in the area.

Replacing their guns with farm implements, the surrenderers joined Sanday’s group and other local farmers in cutting grasses on the rice field as soldiers and local officials looked on.

Datumama Abdul, Midconding village chair, said that his constituents have finally reclaimed their long-lost opportunities after almost two years of violence in the area.

Col. Robert Dauz, the commander of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, has lauded the 33rd IB for exploring peaceful means of settling disputes.

"You have done a splendid job in sustaining the gains of our peace-building activities in our area of jurisdiction. Continue to be the agents of peace in Central Mindanao,” Dauz said.

Lapu-Lapu, together with Sanday, who also has relatives in the BIFF organization, both swore before the Holy Quran they will no longer resort to violence and vowed to work together so their families can live peacefully and productively.

Cabunoc said a total of 12 former BIFF members were presented to the governor during the ceremony, including the group of Dido Malawan who had earlier surrendered on August 9.

Each surrenderee received PHP20,000 cash assistance from Maguindanao 2nd District Representative Zajid Mangudadatu, and additional cash support and work animals from the governor.

“Prove to the government that you are sincere in returning to the mainstream society by being productive as your government is ready to help you earn a decent living than see you fighting a lost cause,” Mangudadatu said. (PNA)