Biff links with drug syn­di­cates to raise funds

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Top Stories -

BULUAN, Maguin­danao -- Run­ning out of funds, the Is­lamic State-in­spired Bangsamoro Is­lamic Free­dom Fighters (Biff) in Maguin­danao has con­nected with drug syn­di­cates and is forc­ing civil­ians to shell out money in the form of “zakat” (reli­gious tax) to fund its armed op­er­a­tion, Gov­er­nor Es­mael Man­gu­da­datu said Fri­day.

In an in­ter­view, Man­gu­da­datu said the col­lec­tion of “zakat” is sup­pos­edly vol­un­tary and no spe­cific amount a Moro may share for the op­er­a­tion of a lo­cal Mosque or place of wor­ship.

“But the Biff has been do­ing it un­der duress,” he said. “This is hap­pen­ing in re­mote vil­lages where poor farm­ers could not refuse forced tax­a­tion, oth­er­wise, they will be ha­rassed.”

Man­gu­da­datu ear­lier told the Pro­vin­cial Peace and Order Coun­cil (PPOC), which he chairs, that Biff mem­bers also turned to ped­dling il­le­gal drugs, sell­ing stuff in and out of Maguin­danao.

The Biff turned to il­le­gal drug syn­di­cates for funds while the drug lords ally with the armed group for pro­tec­tion in the wake of the in­ten­si­fied cam­paign against il­le­gal drugs and drug per­son­al­i­ties.

“It is a case of one group ben­e­fit­ting from the other in il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties,” the gov­er­nor said.

To con­tain this prob­lem, Man­gu­da­datu urged the lo­cal pop­u­lace not to give in to Biff-im­posed “zakat”. He urged the lo­cal of­fi­cials down to the barangays to help mil­i­tary and po­lice au­thor­i­ties con­tain the BIFF so their vil­lages would im­prove.

“This is for the ben­e­fit of peo­ple on the ground. The govern­ment can­not do it alone. We need the sup­port of grass­roots,” he added.

Dur­ing the PPOC meet­ing, of­fi­cials from the af­fected towns of Shar­iff Aguak, Datu Un­say, Datu Saudi, Datu Hofer and Datu Sal­ibo com­plained of forced tax­a­tion by the BIFF, in­form­ing the gov­er­nor that many who re­sisted tax­a­tion were ex­e­cuted.

The mil­i­tary has re­peat­edly pounded BIFF po­si­tions in Maguin­danao in the tri-bound­aries of Datu Un­say, Datu Saudi, and Datu Hofer where the BIFF had ha­rassed hun­dreds of fam­i­lies from Te­du­ray com­mu­nites since Dec. 25.

An es­ti­mated 800 Te­d­uary fam­i­lies are cur­rently stay­ing in evac­u­a­tion cen­ters in the prov­ince due to the se­ries of BIFF ha­rass­ments.

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