Lift martial law in Mindanao now, Moro groups urge Duterte

Moro groups called for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao and the pull-out of both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States troops following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi City after five months of fighting.

In a statement Thursday, Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro said they find it ironic that Duterte has already declared the city’s liberation from the Isis-inspired Maute group earlier this week

“Their (AFP and US military) continued presence, legitimized by the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and their so-called role as architects of Marawi’s rehabilitation, conveniently glosses over the myriad of violations that the military itself has perpetrated,” the groups said.

Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation on his seventh visit to the besieged city October 17, three days shy of five months of brutal fighting and aerial bombing.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte told AFP troops Wednesday.

The AFP however said Marawi has yet to be completely cleared of Maute fighters centered on an area less than a hectare in size near Lake Lanao.

National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana also preempted Duterte Monday, saying there is still no decision on the lifting of martial law.

“We are going to assess the entire situation in Mindanao, and we will make our recommendation to the President in due time,” Lorenzana told reporters.

Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro urged for the establishment of an independent body to probe reports of human rights violations in line with the conduct of military operations in Marawi.

The groups said the government should be held responsible for the death and displacement of Marawi residents and the destruction of their communities due to the intensive aerial bombardment.

They added that the rampant divestment and destruction of properties in Marawi, alongside the grave humanitarian situation in evacuation centers should not be dismissed following Duterte’s announcement.

“Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro stressed the Duterte regime’s accountability in the destruction of Marawi and the displacement of thousands of its residents,” they said.

The groups said that the policies and actions undertaken by the government have undermined efforts to resolve conflict in Moro areas, and have instead aggravated abuses.

They also warned about further resistance from the Moro people amid Marawi’s destruction and prevailing humanitarian crisis in evacuation centers around the city and in neighboring provinces.

“The Moro people are further pushed to fight against [Duterte’s] fascist policies,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mission reports woeful conditions in Lanao evacuation centers

Evacuees displaced by the ongoing battle between government forces and the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups in Mindanao are suffering and remain in danger in various evacuation centers, participants of a humanitarian mission to Marawi and Iligan cities said.

In a press forum yesterday, participants of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission from the University of the Philippines-Diliman reported the evacuation sites they visited have inadequate facilities and services for the hundreds of families displaced by the fighting. Read more

NDFP offers help to fight terrorists anew

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) reiterated its previous declaration that it stands firmly with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) in opposing and fighting terrorism in the country.

In a statement, NDFP Negotiating Panel chairperson Fidel Agcaoil said it is willing to fight terrorist groups as well as acts of terrorism by the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and Ansar Al Khalifah Philippines (AKP) in parts of Mindanao, particularly in and around Marawi City where fighting has been raging for nearly four weeks already.

“As a matter of fundamental principle and constant policy, we condemn and combat terrorism. By terrorism, we mean actions that intimidate, terrorize, harm and murder civilians solely or mainly and in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” the NDFP said.

The NDFP said the three bands are “terrorist groups linked to local reactionary forces, affiliated with ISIS and supported by US-CIA and other foreign entities.”

The NDFP also said it has already instructed its allied organization, the Moro Resistance and Liberation Organization (MRLO), inside Marawi City to assume home defense tasks against the Maute, Abu Sayyaf and AKP groups.

It added the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has also directed units of the New People’s Army (NPA) close to Marawi City to redeploy for the purpose of mopping up, holding and blocking operations, if necessary.

“The NDFP is ready to discuss and agree in detail with the GRP on how ceasefire, coordination and cooperation can be achieved in Marawi City by both forces unilaterally keeping safe distances between each other,” it said.

The NDFP said it has recommended to the CPP to order all other NPA units in Mindanao to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to enable all forces to concentrate against the three terror groups.

It added that the GRP must also order the AFP and PNP to refrain from carrying out offensive operations against the NPA and its adjunct people’s militia to give chance for the coordination and cooperation to work against the terror groups.

The NDFP panel first offered help in fighting the Maute and Abu Sayyaf in Marawi last June 1,  a week after fighting broke out in the besieged city.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the NDFP’s proposal was a sign of goodwill but turned down the offer.

In offering to help fight the terror groups, the NDFP said it wants to allow the affected communities to return to normalcy as soon as possible.

“The rights and interests of the masses and communities must be respected and promoted,” it said, urging the GRP to ensure that the level of counteraction against terrorism, as well as the nature, scope and duration must be appropriate and proportional to the degree of danger, threat and/or harm and mayhem being committed by the terrorist groups in Marawi City.

“Upon the success of the counter-terrorist measures, these must cease in order to allow normalcy and full respect for human rights as soon as possible,” the NDFP said.

Yesterday, Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group told reporters the number of deaths has risen to 310, including government troops, terrorists and civilians.

GRP Department of Health secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial for her part said there are 218,551 people displaced by the fighting but only about 20,000 of them are staying in evacuation centers. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Featured Image by Jaja Necosia-The Breakaway Media)