MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang and the military have downplayed the capability of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to harm President Rodrigo Duterte after the group reportedly threatened to "shoot to kill" the Chief Executive.
Asked by a reporter if the Palace thinks the BIFF can carry out an attack on the President, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said, “As expressed, as shown, history – based on results, no.”
In the same press conference, held on Friday, June 23, Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander Brigadier General Gilbert Gapay called the BIFF threats a “desperate” act.
“These are desperate moves and undertaken actions by the BIFF,” he said.
The BIFF reportedly burned and tore up pictures of Duterte and shouted threats while inside the Malagakit Elementary School in Pigcawayan.
During the attack, they held around 30 civilians – including 12 students – hostage. The incident led to the deaths of one Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member, one civilian, and 6 BIFF members. Some 367 households or 1,707 individuals were displaced.
Abella said there is “no ground support” for the BIFF, making it less of a threat to Duterte’s safety.
Gapay said the BIFF was driven to make such threats to deflect their "embarrassment" over the outcome of the North Cotabato attack. He said the since the BIFF deployed a force of over a hundred members, the group had expected to inflict a lot of damage on government forces.
The AFP’s 6th Infantry Division was able to respond to the attack right away, minimizing the damage.
“It turned out to be otherwise. That’s why noong napahiya na sila, so before they fled, ‘yun na (so when they got embarrassed, before they fled, they made those threats),” said Gapay.
Duterte was out of the public eye again for 3 days since June 20, when he visited an evacuation center in Iligan City and wounded soldiers in Cagayan de Oro.
Aside from speculations about his health, there are also speculations that his lack of public activities is due to heightened security measures. Duterte was last heard to be in Davao City. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.