Some estimated 40,000 families or 120,000 people displaced from 11 affected Maguindanao towns will soon return home after the government offensive launched last February against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has simmered down, the military said.
Captain Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said that they will determine which areas are now safe and totally cleared from BIFF occupation so residents can go back home.
The all-out military operation against the BIFF, which started Feb. 25, has yielded over 100 casualties on the BIFF side and less than a dozen fatalities from the government forces.
According to Petinglay, the BIFF, which originally numbered about 300, has lost an estimated 140 of its fighters since the fighting began. But the military has only recovered five of their bodies.
Reports filtered out that the retreating Moro group is planning to regroup to mount retaliatory attacks.
However, the military maintained that the tension has eased. At the provincial peace and order council (PPOC) meeting held last Thursday, PPOC chair Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and 6ID officials, led by division commander Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, said the BIFF forces had split into smaller groups to evade detection by pursuing government forces.
To ensure the safety of residents, Mangudadatu agreed with the military’s recommendation to form a PPOC committee that would determine the viability of returning evacuees to their villages.
This, even as the military has claimed that soldiers have already cleared affected areas as early as March 1, during the height of their operations.