The number of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) members killed in the ongoing law enforcement operations against the bandit group has reached 139, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)..
"As of today (March 21), we have accounted 139 killed, 53 wounded and 12 arrested/apprehended BIFF members," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.
Operations against the BIFF started last Feb. 25 when they attempted to take control of Pikit town in
and Pagalungan, Maguindanao.
And in return, six troopers were killed while another 31 were wounded in the ongoing offensive against the bandits.
"The security forces will continue to conduct focused military operations against the armed threats like the BIFF and the terrorists that they have coddled in their communities," Cabunoc said.
"We have gained the momentum in this fight against lawlessness and we will never abandon our constitutional mandate to protect the people from bandits, criminals and terrorists," the AFP public affairs office chief pointed out.
As this develops, Cabunoc said that the AFP will facilitate the conduct of joint graduation ceremonies for the schools in area that are affected by the ongoing law enforcement operations against the BIFF.
These areas are mostly in Maguindanao and includes the town forming the so-called "SPMS Box".
These towns are Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Salibo (Shariff Saydona).
"Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr., (AFP chief-of-staff) will support the decision of the ground commander, Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan (6th Infantry Division commander) regarding this issue," Cabunoc said.
He also said that the AFP was considering a proposal to identify a safe area where the joint graduation ceremonies could be conducted.
"We need to discuss and take collective decisions together with our partners like the LGU (local government unit), PNP and DEPED (Department of Education)," Cabunoc said.
He also said that the AFP was very much interested in seeing school children flocking to schools in pursuit of education and better lives.
"We are delighted to see them finish school and receive their diplomas and recognition. We understand the plight of the people who have fled to evacuation centers, especially the women, children and old people," Cabunoc said.