KIDAPAWAN CITY – North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco has welcomed three combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) who opted to surrender and denounced the use of violence.
In a statement Thursday, Catamco said the former combatants used to operate in Aleosan, North Cotabato, and were involved in several violent incidents in the town and nearby municipalities.
“You made the right choice, the government will not fail you, we have programs for all of you who wanted to return to the mainstream society,” she said.
The three BIFF extremists, surrenderers, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, yielded to local military and police authorities on Wednesday afternoon in the outskirts of Aleosan.
The governor, along with Col. Henry Villar, North Cotabato police director, and Col. Jovencio Gonzales, the Army’s 602nd Brigade commander, welcomed the three BIFF men during simple surrender rites inside the police provincial office in Barangay Amas here at 5 p.m.
In media interview Thursday, the surrenderers admitted they were duped to take up arms and join violent extremism.
“We were repeatedly told the government will not help us, and that the Army will kill us (BIFF) on sight,” one of the surrenderers said.
Villar said the trio turned in a homemade .50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, and a .45-caliber pistol with ammunition.
Catamco also handed over to the surrenderers PHP10,000 cash assistance and other livelihood packages for the former rebels.
The governor said she hopes other rebels who are still in the mountains would come down and avail of the government’s amnesty program. (PNA)