Military halts ops vs. MILF breakaway group before start of Ramadan

The military has halted its operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)—the armed wing of a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)—in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, officials said Monday.

In a text message to reporters, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the military "will keep the peace during Ramadan" but "will act accordingly should harassment continue to persist."

Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, meanwhile said that troops have already "called off" their operations against the BIFF since they were only allowed three days to conduct operations against the group.

"We have to abide by that kasi ayaw naman natin na ma-derail 'yung peace process," Gapuz said in a separate interview.

He, however, added that government troops are "prepared" to "react" if the BIFF launches attacks during Ramadan.

2 clashes

On Saturday, five soldiers were killed in two separate attacks launched by the BIFF in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, said the attacks may have been launched by the BIFF to derail the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF, which formally resumed on Monday.

Last October, the government and the MILF signed a landmark framework agreement that would pave the way for the creation of a Bangsamoro territory to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar earlier appealed to the BIFF to support the preliminary peace agreement with the government.

Not a holiday

Meanwhile, Malacañang reminded the public that July 9, the start of Ramadan, is not a non-working holiday.

The Twitter account of the Philippine government's official gazette made this reminder on Monday morning in response to queries it has been receiving.

Based on Proclamation No. 495, which lists all holidays this year, the next non-working holiday will be on August 21, or on Ninoy Aquino Day.

The government gazette also noted President Benigno Aquino III will issue separate proclamations declaring two other Muslim religious holidays—Eid'l Fitr and Eidul Adha—as national holidays.

— Andreo Calonzo/KBK, GMA News

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