Posted by: kawagib | September 2, 2008

Justice to Victims of Military Offensives in Mindanao, Respect Muslim’s Observance of Fasting

Cotabato City – Kawagib Moro Human Rights calls for a stop to on-going offensives in Moro areas and Mindanao and reaches out to other human rights organizations to help the victims of the recent offensives made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a result of the failed signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

According to Kawagib spokesperson Bai Ali Indayla, the government has tallied more than 360,000 evacuees have been crammed in makeshift evacuation centers in North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte and Basilan.  In Maitum, Saranggani alone, there were already 249,194 displaced residents since June 2008.

In their initial investigations, Kawagib has documented 13 civilians dead due to strafing and mortar shelling by the AFP in North Cotabato , Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao including a pregnant woman, three minors, three elderly and a two months old baby.

For the whole month of August, Kawagib has documented eight wounded civilians including four minors and one seven month-old baby.

One man was arrested in Kabakan suspected of being an MILF member responsible for the bombin in Midsayap.  Another man was reported to have lost his sanity because of the military offensives.

Kawagib further reported that they have documented five houses burned in Aleosan, both belonging to Muslims and Christians, and a house of a Moro family in Matalam was strafed by unidentified armed men.

Indayla deplores government troops and officials to respect the Muslim’s observance of the holy month of fasting by stopping the offensives in communities and stop issuing orders of heightened military offensives during the Ramadhan.

“It is already difficult for the evacuees to live in makeshift evacuation center, it will be harder for them to keep on being uprooted from their communities while observing fast,” said Indayla.

According to Indayla, her group is concerned that violence against civilians will further escalate despite of the seeming withdrawal of troops by the national government.

Indayla added that resurgence of vigilante groups like the Ilaga and arming civilians through police auxiliaries will only aggravate the situation of the civilians and make them more vulnerable to violence.

“We will hold liable the President Arroyo and the DILG chief  Reynato Puno should any civilian die as a result of the rise of the vigilante groups,” said Indayla adding that in the past it had been difficult for families who were victims of Ilaga violence to go after the perpetrators and the government agencies that organized and supplied arms for them.

Indayla said that rekindling Ilaga as a group and fanning anti-Moro biases will not help resolve the situation in Mindanao , and may even start mayhem in Mindanao.

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