Biff links with drug syndicates to raise funds
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.