By Nonoy Lacson
Zamboanga City – The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has officially joined government forces in the fight against rebel groups, drug lords, and other neophyte terrorist groups in Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao.
MNLF Chair Yusop Jikiri said MNLF forces in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi have joined police and military forces, as well as other government agencies, in running after drug lords and terrorists in their localities as a contribution to the leadership of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
“We and our people now want to live in peace, and free from the use of drugs. It is for this reason why we joined the bandwagon of President Duterte in the fight against terrorism, and drug distribution and addiction in our areas,” he said.
He said the MNLF leadership did not want the Muslim people, particularly those who live in areas where there is strong MNLF presence, to be involved in illegal activities like the use and sale of drugs, and terrorism such as kidnapping.
He said the extension of martial law in Mindanao was a laudable move, and was considered as one of the best measures the government has adopted to control illegal activities in some provinces in Mindanao.
Martial law was first declared on May 23 last year after fighting erupted in Marawi City.
Even with the fighting in Marawi over, military and police intelligence sources claimed that extremist groups were still recruiting new members in various parts in Mindanao.
Last month, lawmakers, upon the recommendation of the security sector, voted to extend martial law for a year.
As this developed, Jikiri asked the national government to consider extending livelihood assistance to the people in Muslim-dominated areas in Mindanao, particularly those living in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.
He said most of the people in these province suffer from poverty due to the lack of government infrastructure support programs, and livelihood assistance programs.
He claimed that poverty was “the root cause of all evil things like rebellion, terrorism, kidnapping and drug addiction and distribution.”
As such, Jikiri said the MNLF will continue to be a “partner of the government in fighting against any form of criminality in this part of the country.”
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who serves as martial law administrator in Mindanao, ordered Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao last Thursday to conduct a closer monitoring of local chief executives in Mindanao.