“The AFP is clearly unable to distinguish civilians from combatants. This incompetence and lack of fire discipline has resulted to civilian casualties.”
By SUARA BANGSAMORO
Photos by KILAB MULTIMEDIA
DATU SAUDI, MAGUINDANAO –“In the past 11 days, the AFP’s ‘all-out offensive’ against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao has incurred damages not only against the insurgents, but greatly among the civilian population as well.”
This was the conclusion of the advance team of the fact-finding mission launched by the Kawagib Moro Human Rights Alliance and Suara Bangsamoro.
Abdul Rahman Malabana, spokesperson of Kawagib, says that their mission intended to document the human rights violations against the civilian population committed by the AFP under the implementation of the all-out war it launched in Central Mindanao.
“We have only documented a few cases so far, but these already give a clear picture of how great the damage was caused by the AFP’s works,” Malabana said.
Civilians under attack
Boyong Unggla, 36, a resident of Madia village, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, was grazed in the forehead by a bullet coming from state forces, barely missing the spot that could have meant his death.
In a sworn affidavit dated March 7, Unggla narrates how he was almost killed by the AFP troops positioned near his home:
“Firefight started around 2 PM last March 6, and lasted till night. I was sitting in the balcony, and the area where the government troops and BIFF were fighting was more than a kilometer away from where I sat.”
“I could still hear the battle raging till 8 PM, and that was when bullets coming from a nearby group of soldiers pierced my home. One of them found its way to my head, almost killing me,” Unggla said.
The victim was surprised, however, that the direction from where the shots came were totally askew to the location of the actual engagement between state troops and the insurgents.
“The bullets came from my right side, but the BIFF and the soldiers who were caught in the fight were directly in front of me,” said Unggla.
Unggla received basic medical aid from his neighbors who immediately helped him out.
Another civilian, Alon Maytula, 60, and resident of Elian village, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, recounts how his home and property was damaged:
“It was afternoon when a firefight erupted at the boundary of Elian and Madia villages. The area of encounter was kilometers away from my house, but I feared the mortar shellings, so I evacuated, even though the battling sides were very far from our area.”
After the battle ceased, Maytula returned home. To his dismay, multiple craters now surrounded his home, the nearby coconut trees were felled by the mortar rounds fired by AFP troops.
Maytula was able to recover metal shrapnel rounds in his home.
Shrapnel rounds are small bits of metal that fly in different directions upon explosion of munitions, causing damage to objects nearby, and severe injury and even death to persons who happen to be close to the explosion.
“These caused additional damage to my house, as clearly shown by the bullet holes all over the place,” Maytula lamented.
Maytula demanded indemnification for his destroyed property, claiming of damages amounting up to P100,000 ($2,257).
A mother and son wounded
But the most dramatic example of civilian casualty was Farhenan Panigas, mother of Ali Panigas.
Ali Panigas was the four-month old infant who was hit by an M16 bullet in the leg in an indiscriminate firing last year at their home, close to the base of the 22nd Mechanized Brigade of the Philippine Army.
Farhenan was hit by a stray bullet in the leg in the firefight between the AFP and BIFF.
Farhenan���s wound now makes her being an evacuee even harder, as she limps to move around one place to another, while the all-out war rages on.
Evacuees have been shifting camps from time to time, as the combat operations launched by the AFP come close to the centers where they take shelter.
Call to end war
In a press statement, Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, calls for the immediate stop to the military operations, saying that the true targets of the state’s campaign are the poor civilians themselves.
Aba also condemned the careless nature of the military operations, saying that it placed civilian lives at risk.
“The AFP is clearly unable to distinguish civilians from combatants. This incompetence and lack of fire discipline has resulted to civilian casualties…the ineptitude and trigger happy nature of the military has once again endangered the lives of combatants greater than those of the state’s purported enemies,” he said.
Aba said: “The “all-out offensive” the AFP claims is a poor play of words to hide the reality that it has waged an all-out war intended to drive away the Moro people, as they are the greatest opposition to the entry of foreign corporations whose interests is to exploit the oil-rich Liguasan Marsh. The AFP will continue to bomb and shoot civilians out of their homes, in its blind obedience to the puppet US-Aquino regime.”
He further adds that the cases they have documented are only the tip of the iceberg of many human rights violations. He encouraged the victims to speak up and allow their demands to be heard, especially the ones calling for indemnification and pull-out of military troops. Reposted by