ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will observe an 8-hour "humanitarian pause" against the Maute Group on Sunday, June 25, in deference to the Eid’l Fitr celebration of the Muslim world.
Lieutenant Colonel Jo-ar Herrera, spokesperson of Task Force Ranao and the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said in a text message on Saturday, Jun 24, that the humanitarian pause should not be confused with a ceasefire as it will be made in observance of the Muslim celebration.
Hererra said this will be observed from 6 am to 2 pm on Sunday.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, head of the military's Western Mindanao Command, signed the statement declaring the enforcement of the humanitarian pause. It was approved by Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año.
"To give reverence to the supposed peaceful, joyous, and festive spiritual celebration, the AFP upon the approval of the CSAFP intends to declare a stop in our current operations in the city on that day to serve as a gesture of our strong commitment and respect to the Muslim world particularly to the local Muslims of Marawi City," said the AFP statement.
It also specified several conditions for the "immediate" lifting of the humanitarian pause:
Eid’l Fitr means "feast of breaking of the fast, an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting.
The "pause" in fighting comes over a month since government troops began clashes with local terrorist groups in Marawi City, which had reduced parts of the city to rubble. (READ: 1 month of Marawi clashes: Death toll now at 375)
Zia Alonto Adiong, Marawi Crisis Management Spokesperson said that the June 25 commemoration will be the "saddest Eid'l Fitr celebration" ever.
“This is the saddest Eid'l Celebration in recent memory. This local miltant group robbed us the chance to observe Ramadhan peacefully and stole from us the opportunity to celebrate Eid'l Fitr and be with our loved ones in this religious occasion,” Adiong said.
Alonto said that for centuries, the Eid’l Fitr had been observed uninterrupted until now.
“It pains us to see families who can't even share meals together, pray together and continue observing this Muslim tradition simply because our current state doesn't permit such 'family gathering' to take place,” Alonto said.
The provincial government of Lanao del Sur and the city government of Marawi still prepared for a feast tomorrow, Sunday, for the at least 400 families taking shelter at the provincial government compound.
Adiong said that they are preparing native Maranao food and delicacies which will be serve after a church congregational prayer to be followed by a sermon by an Imam.
“Our prayers and thoughts are with the 264,000 Meranao IDPS scattered around evacuation centers and places of temporary shelter. Happy Eid'l Fitr to all Meranaos wherever they may be,” he said.