MANILA - The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is gaining ground in its fight against terrorism and lawlessness, its newly-installed spokesperson said on Thursday.
In a press briefing, Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said the military is confident it will be able to decimate the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
AFP chief of staff Gregorio Catapang Jr. last month ordered an all-out offensive against the BIFF, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), after it attacked several villages in parts of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, displacing thousands of families.
"We are really optimistic that our offensive operations against the BIFF will result in a positive impact... that we will degrade their capability [to conduct bomb-making activities]," Kakilala said.
He said the Justice Islamic Movement (JIM), a splinter group of the BIFF, is also a target of the AFP's all-out offensive.
He noted that troops have recovered bomb-making equipment from the alleged lair of JIM's leader, Ali Tambako.
Tambako, he said, was eased out from the BIFF in 2013. He said when the BIFF's leader, Umbra Kato, suffered a severe stroke in November 2011, there was rivalry and power struggle within the group.
The JIM, believed to have links with terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, is allegedly coddling wanted bomb-maker Basit Usman and five other foreign terrorists.
ABU SAYYAF 'PARANOID'
Meanwhile, Kakilala said the Abu Sayyaf Group has already become paranoid following the operations conducted by the AFP.
"Kahit ingay ng palaka, ingay ng ibon, pinagdududahan nila na nagmo-monitor sa kanila, sa activities nila," he said, citing an unnamed government official in Sulu. "That is how paranoid [they are]," he added.
He said since January 2015, 36 members of the bandit group have been killed. Eighteen firearms have also been recovered from them.
"With the current developments, we are gaining grounds in our fight against lawlessness and terrorism," he said.
BRING BACK NORMALCY
According to Kakilala, they are coordinating with local government officials on how to deliver aid and medical services to the thousands of residents displaced by the AFP's offensive operations.
He said they aim to bring back normalcy to the affected communities.
"Once we have flushed out the armed bandits and terrorists from the affected areas, we will facilitate the safe return of the civilians back to their homes," he said.
"We are appealing to all armed groups to end all acts of violence that have caused the displacement of people from different communities. Please consider your options: embrace lasting peace as our partners or continue to be on the run as enemies of the state," Kakilala said.