Palace, military downplay BIFF threat to kill Duterte
Malacanang and the military downplayed on Friday the alleged threat of the rogue Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on the life of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The BIFF, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and a breakaway group of the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, threatened to kill Duterte after they attacked Pigcawayan in North Cotabato this week, news reports said.
Government officials expressed belief the BIFF has no capability to assassinate Duterte.
Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in the "Mindanao Hour" briefing in Davao City, said the BIFF has no ground support
"The local Muslim community, the Maranaos especially, do not want this. And for whatever reason that they are dealing with this, whether it is personal interest or what, there is no ground support for them," Abella said.
Brig. Gen. Gilbert Gapay, deputy commander of Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command and chief martial law spokesman for Mindanao, said the military considers BIFF "not as serious" threat as the Maute group, which has been the target of the military's offensive operations in Marawi City.
"Actually, it’s not as serious as the one we’re fighting in Marawi because BIFF is contained in their stronghold in SPMS box and our troops there is doing very well in containing the BIFF," he said.
SPMS box refers to Shariff Aguak, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Shariff Saydona, all in Maguindanao province.
Gapay said just like Maute, which is a target of military operations, a dedicated unit of the AFP is tasked to address the BIFF threat.
"And just like our effort against the Maute group, we will sustain our operations against the BIFF until they have been decimated," he said.
The BIFF, founded by Ameril Umbra Kato, a commander of the MILF, broke away in late 2010 after the MILF under Al Haj Murad Ebrahim gave up its call for an independent Islamic State.
Gapay said the Presidential Security Group is ready to protect Duterte.
"So with strong political will demonstrated by the President, from his words he has many enemies, he's making enemies. But of course, our PSG - Presidential Security Group, is making some adjustments on this. And of course, security measures are being assessed from time to time for the safety and security of our President," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS