‘Kill Duterte’ BIFF’s desperation vow—AFP

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THE military on Friday described as a “desperate pronouncement” the threats made by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to kill President Rodrigo Duterte and ransack his hometown of Davao City. 

Following the BIFF’s incursions into Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, which triggered clashes with the military and left two militiamen and a number of the gunmen dead and sent hundreds of residents fleeing, the militants said they will shoot to kill Duterte following the continuing military operations despite Ramadan. 

“We will shoot to kill you Duterte, and wherever you ask for help Duterte you can never wipe us out,” the group said. 

Meanwhile, the military said it might recommend the lifting of President Duterte’s martial law proclamation once government forces liberated all of Marawi City as it expressed confidence it could free it completely before the remaining 30 days of martial law lapsed. 

“We see that it won’t reach another 30 more days,” Western Mindanao Command chief Major General Carlito Galvez said in a radio interview. 

“We really see that we can get it and clear everything in Marawi.”  

But Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said it would still depend on Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and the military if martial law would be extended before the 60-day constitutional limit was over.

“That will depend on the recommendation of the secretary of National Defense, of the Armed Forces who are the implementors of martial law,” Abella told reporters in Davao City. 

Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander and martial law spokesman Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay described the BIFF’s threat as a “desperate pronouncement” after they were pushed back by the military. 

Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander and martial law spokesman Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay

“Desperate because what happened in Pigcawayan recently was somehow a diversionary attack resulting from the major setbacks they have been experiencing in their stronghold in Maguindanao, specifically the SPMS box, because our forces there have intensified their operations against the BIFF,” Gapay said. 

SPMS box refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona in Maguindanao, where the BIFF operates.

Abella said the BIFF rebels could not harm Duterte. 

“They can’t carry out attacks against Duterte],” Abella said. 

“The local Muslim community, the Maranaos especially, do not want this… These are isolated groups that are brilliant in media manipulation … but they do not have the necessary support coming from the ground.”

Amid the threats, the military said the Presidential Security Group had made some adjustments from time to time to ensure Duterte’s safety. 

“Every engagement is a different one so it depends on the area of engagement. They have to make adjustments,” Gapay said.

He said the BIFF likely had a “technical alliance” with the Maute group that wreaked havoc in Marawi City. 

He insisted that the incident remained isolated and not a spillover as  Duterte had earlier warned. 

“As far as tactical alliance is concerned, that is very possible and we have seen that in some operations wherein BIFF fighters are sending augmentation to not just Maute but also other local terrorist groups in the country,” Gapay said. 

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