BIFF SURRENDERERS. Lt. Colonel Rommel Valencia, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion accepts three members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who yielded to them on Friday (March 20) in Kabacan, North Cotabato. The surrenderers said they longed to be with their families after being duped into fighting a futile cause. (Photo courtesy of 7IB)

COTABATO CITY – Three members of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) surrendered to the military in North Cotabato on Friday, bringing with them high-powered firearms and rifle grenade launchers.

The surrenderers belonged to the BIFF faction of Ustadz Karialan operating at the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato provinces.

Lt. Col. Rommel Valencia, commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Battalion (IB) based in Kabacan, North Cotabato, said the three turned over a homemade .50-caliber sniper, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher with ammunition, and a homemade M79 grenade launcher with two rounds of 40-mm projectiles.

Valencia said the surrenderers' long desire to live normal lives with their families prompted them to abandon a lost cause.

“The government’s offer is good under President Rodrigo Duterte so we grabbed the opportunity to surrender while he is still in office,” said Ali, one of the surrenderers.

Valencia said the 7IB has coordinated with the local government of Pikit, North Cotabato, through Mayor Sumulong Sultan for financial and livelihood assistance.

“Through this, more BIFF will hopefully come and surrender for the sake of their families,” Valencia said.

Brig. Gen. Robert Capulong, commander of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, lauded the 7IB troopers for "pursuing the right path to peace for those who were duped to join a lost cause."

Capulong said he directed Valencia to convince more BIFF to surrender and avail of the government’s reconciliation program. (PNA)