The Suara Bangsamoro is calling for a stop to the government’s all-out offensive against Moro rebels as thousands of civilians are the ones who bear the brunt of the military aggression.
By DEE AYROSO
The Moro group Suara Bangsamoro denounced the latest government offensives in Maguindanao province, which, the group said, resulted in the evacuation of 12 villages in four towns.
“Suara Bangsamoro condemns the all-out war operations conducted by the combined forces of the police and military in Maguindanao that forced civilians to evacuate and leave their homes, and destroyed properties,” said Jerome Succor Aba, Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson in a statement.
The joint operations of the Philippine Army, Philippine Marines and the Philippine National Police started Feb. 27 in Datu Unsay town, to flush out members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Force (BIFF) reportedly seen in the area.
A report by the Quick Reaction Team of Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib said that at 8 a.m. on Feb. 27, residents fled their homes when soldiers and police started strafing their houses, where BIFF elements were suspected to be present.
At 10 a.m., “the state forces started ground and aerial assaults destroying some houses of the residents,” said Aba.
The villages affected by the massive operations were: Maitumaig and Iganagampong in Datu Unsay; Pamalian in Sharif Saydona Mustapha; the villages of Tina, Malingaw, Mungkas, Bagong, Maibunga, Kolumpang, Peking, Dagutom in Sharif Aguak; and Pagatin village in Datu Piang.
Many of the residents evacuated to Salbo village, in Datu Saudi Ampatuan.
Farmer Noria Kamid, 45, a resident of Sitio Quary, Maitumaig village, said two military helicopters began shooting even as the residents were leaving their homes. They were not able to bring anything because they were so afraid. Ten tanks fired mortar shell at houses, she said.
A seven-month pregnant woman, Aga Zulkarnin, 27, another resident of Maitumaig, said she tried to run with her five children when the shooting started. “At around 8 a.m. on Jan. 27, we saw soldiers in our place and my five children and I immediately ran. I was not able to bring anything aside from my children. As we were running, I saw two helicopters firing at the houses,” she was quoted by the Suara Bangsamoro report.
At the national hi-way in Matumaig, a motorcycle took Zulkarnin and her children, but in the hurry, she fell and injured her foot. She also saw soldiers strafing the houses of her neighbours.
“There is a clear violation of international humanitarian law in the area,” Aba said. He said at least 17 amphibian tanks were positioned from the Roundball crossing in Datu Saudi Ampatuan to Crossing Pagatin. Residents also reported seeing 26 units of 6×6 military trucks, which transported government troops in civilian communities three days before the attack, Aba said.
The Geneva Protocols protect civilians from attacks during armed conflict.
Aba said the all-out offensive is “an overkill which might escalate in Maguindanao and spill over in neighboring areas, deploying several units and composite teams of state forces reportedly in search of Usman and other terrorists.”
“Suara Bangsamoro fears that government is conditioning the people to accept overkill military actions as a way to catch terrorists,” said the Suara Bangsamoro official. The group “fears that this could be used to veer away public’s attention at the investigation of the Mamasapano incident,” said Aba.
Various groups have renewed calls for President Aquino’s resignation, after senate and congressional investigations revealed his direct role in the Mamasapano operation, which targeted terror suspects Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman, both wanted by the US. It resulted into a bloody encounter which killed 44 elite cops, 18 Moro rebels and at least two civilians.
“The Aquino government’s subservience to the US War on Terror will time and again be used as pretext for more destructive military and police operations that would result to accumulating human rights violations against the Moro communities,” Aba said.