“Suara Bangsamoro stands that if the AFP is sincere in its desire to achieve peace in Maguindanao, it should immediately recall its troops from their civilian encampments.”
By DEE AYROSO
MANILA – The Suara Bangsamoro condemned the “accumulating list of human rights violations” by the military, as they called for a stop to the government’s “all-out war” in Maguindanao province.
In a statement, Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of Suara Bangsamoro, said that at 4 a.m., on March 8, some 100 foot soldiers arrived in Sitio (subvillage) Bayug, Dapiawan village, in Datu Saudi Ampatuan. With them came four armed personnel carriers (APCs) and two military trucks.
Village residents immediately evacuated to safety, for fear of being caught in the crossfire between government troops and Moro rebels.
Upon returning home that same day, residents found holes in their walls, their doors kicked in, and their homes ransacked.
“When a staff from Suara Bangsamoro arrived at the area, clothes were strewn all over the floor of houses, doors removed from their hinges, holes made in walls and appliances broken,” said the group in its statement. They said one variety store was even looted. The cases were documented by the group.
“These civilians have less than enough to feed themselves,” said Aba. He said the military are “killing” the people, not only with guns, but by “depriving them of their basic needs.”
Also on March 8, Suara Bangsamoro, along with the Kawagib Moro Rights Alliance, organized a protest march from the Dapiawan village evacuation center, where evacuees joined them in calling for a pull-out of the military from the communities.
“All of a sudden, soldiers arrived en masse, and made their way towards the evacuation center,” Aba said in the statement. Aba said that Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsuddin Dimaukom arrived, and facilitated a dialogue between the protesters and Army Lt.Col. Taharudin Ampatuan of the 6th Infantry Division inside the evacuation center.
“There, the soldiers set up tables and equipment to conduct routine check-ups and dental operations, while two trucks distributed rice,” Aba said.
The protesters and evacuees presented a four-point proposal for an agreement: for a stop to the military offensive and pull-out of government troops; for immediate relief distribution, such as food and medicine, to the affected population; indemnification of residents for the economic losses they incurred; and justice for the victims of human rights violations.
Aba said Lt Col Ampatuan, however, rejected their proposal, and instead “went on with a litany about how the soldiers are present in Maguindanao to protect the people and to give them the services they needed.”
Aba said they found it funny that the military wanted to give dental checkups amid evacuees whose houses were wrecked and looted by soldiers.
“The AFP’s medical mission and aid are a farce,” said Aba. ““Whatever aid they have given today is not enough to replace the losses the victims had over the past week.”
“Suara Bangsamoro stands that if the AFP is sincere in its desire to achieve peace in Maguindanao, it should immediately recall its troops from their civilian encampments,”Aba said.
The military troops have been in Maguindanao for almost two weeks, after the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang declared an “all-out offensive” against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Suara Bangsamoro called for President Aquino’s ouster. “Aquino is the ultimate ringleader among the pack of thieves in the AFP, second only in terms of greed to its US imperialist master. Their ultimate goal is the Liguasan Marsh, with its vast mineral wealth more than enough to uplift the Moro people from poverty.”