President Rodrigo Duterte is warning officials of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) that a full-scale war can break out in Mindanao if the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) cannot be controlled.
Duterte went to Maguindanao to dialogue with local officials there, or a few days after armed men from the BIFF seized a public market in Datu Paglas town.
“I can order the military to press for a fight in order to impose peace. But if you cannot convince people — I know some of you, you have enemies — but you must do something,” he said partly in Filipino in a speech at Camp B. Gen. Gonzalo H. Siongco in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.
“But if it cannot be prevented, and there will be an all-out offensive. That is the problem, And if I give the order, I will no longer withdraw it. I will wait for the next President to do what he wants with Mindanao,” he added in Filipino.
About 200 heavily-armed members of the BIFF seized the public market of Datu Paglas town at 4 a.m. on Saturday.
Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF under the Kagui Karialan faction occupied the town’s public market and established a defensive position there.
He said no casualty was reported on the government side, and could not say if the BIFF extremists had casualties.
At least 5,000 individuals have been displaced by the conflict and were staying at nearby public schools as military clearing operations continued at the town center.
Government forces were able to regain control of the Datu Paglas town market center after the military launched air and ground assaults on the rebels’ position until the BIFF withdrew toward the mountainous area of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.
In a statement on Sunday, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana urged residents and local government officials in Maguindanao to be more vigilant.
He said the AFP will not stop until the threat posed by the BIFF terrorists is neutralized.