Peace groups to army: Declare humanitarian ceasefire

Angela Casauay

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Peace groups to army: Declare humanitarian ceasefire
Twenty peace organizations urge the army to suspend offensives against the BIFF so assistance can be delivered to those displaced by the conflict

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS. Residents displaced by the fighting are seen in Shariff Aguak town in Maguindanao. The military launched attacks against the the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao on February 25, 2015. Photo by Jef Maitem/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Peace advocates on Tuesday, March 17, issued an appeal to the military to suspend ongoing operations in Maguindanao against rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to allow aid to reach displaced residents.  

In a statement, All-out Peace – a network of 20 groups – called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines to declare a ceasefire amid a growing humanitarian crisis in the province. 

At least 124,000 individuals or 24,714 families have been displaced as the offensives reached its 3rd week. 

The army claims at least 122 people have been killed in the offensive, including 116 BIFF fighters and 6 soldiers. 

The group asked the military to disclose the progress of the operations, saying that they are “alarmed” by the lack of a clear timetable for the offensives.   

With the number of evacuees growing each day, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is spending about P2 million per day for food packs alone. The regional government launched a donation drive on Friday to augment relief needs.  

Aside from aid constraints, the All-out Peace group expressed alarm over the use of artillery shelling and airstrikes with bombs reportedly near civilian homes. 

“We categorically state that a ‘humanitarian crisis’ is already staring us in the face as an effect of the prolonged military action against lawless elements,” the groups said. 

“We are urgently appealing to all peace-loving citizens to join this ‘humanitarian call’ and participate in mobilizing relief goods and encouraging solidarity with the [internally displaced persons] by enabling their voices and stories to be heard,” they added. 

Suspending military operations in 12 Maguindanao towns would allow humanitarian groups to establish a humanitarian corridor so assistance can reach residents who have been forced to flee their homes, the statement said. 

The groups also issued an appeal to fellow civic groups and the public to mobilize support for those displaced by the conflict. 

The military launched an “all-out offensive” against the BIFF in the aftermath of the police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that killed 67 individuals. Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, better known as Marwan, was killed in the operation but local terrorist Abdul Basit Usman was able to escape. (READ: Usman’s alleged coddler arrested in GenSan)

The offensives started in 4 towns of Maguindanao – Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano, and Shariff Aguak – and spilled over to the municipalities of Guindulungan, Talayan, and Datu Piang, where BIFF members allegedly retreated.

Read the full statement below: 


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