IN PHOTO- Makeshift tents where IDP’s temporarily stay while military operations take place in the Ligawasan Marsh

Humanitarian Groups appeal to authorities to uphold civilian protection during military operations against ISIS-Inspired Groups in the Bangsamoro

Cotabato City –On June 21, The North Cotabato Composite Team of CSOs (NCCT-CSO) North Cotabato, Community-Based Peace and Protection Center (CBPPC) Maguindanao and North Cotabato, and the Tiyakap Kalilintad (TKI) Maguindanao and North Cotabato issued a statement and appealed to concerned authorities to uphold civilian protection during military operations against ISIS-Inspired Groups in the Ligawasan Marsh in Maguindanao, and North Cotabato.

“As a network of humanitarians, peace advocates, and human rights defenders, we call on concerned local government units and the military authorities to uphold humanitarian protection and to take steps to ensure civilian safety and welfare in the ongoing military campaign against the members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in and around the Ligawasan Marsh in North Cotabato and Maguindanao”, the statement said. 

“We appeal to the mandated organizations who are committed to human rights to immediately hold a non-partisan investigation on the reported deaths of a 14-year old boy and a pregnant woman at the height of mortar shelling operations as in Lower Idtig in Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun municipality on June 16, 2018 and the killing of an elderly and a 13-year boy during a military raid in Sitio Makantal, Olandang, Midsayap, North Cotabato on June 12, 2018”, it continued.

The group reminded the rebel fighters to refrain from taking actions that endanger the lives of the civilians and non-combatants as they can be held accountable for violations of humanitarian laws and human rights standards governing armed conflict situations. 

The group reported that “clashes between the soldiers and the BIFF members have resulted to the displacement of more than 3,000 families from the villages of Dalgan, Buliok and Kalbugan in the town of Pagalungan, Maguindanao. They sought refuge in the old market and an elementary school in the town center and later moved to the neighboring municipality of Datu Montawal, Maguindanao.”  

They called the attention of concerned authorities to verify reports that soldiers and public officials are asking the evacuees to return to their places of origin despite the ongoing aerial bombings in nearby areas. We ask the duty-bearers and other stakeholders to take into consideration the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID) in handling the situations of the internally displaced persons. 

These groups also called the public to rally behind the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will pave the way to addressing the historical injustices committed against the Moro People. 

“As essential and sustainable measures to attain durable solutions to the recurrent issue of internal displacement in security-challenged areas in Mindanao, we enjoin everyone to support the enactment into law of the version of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and fulfill their legitimate right to self-determination.” 

Other concerns raised were calling for the passage of the ‘Internal Displacement Act’ to set into law the obligation of duty-bearers and stakeholders in the prevention of involuntary displacement and the protection and promotion of the rights and welfare of civilians affected by man-made and natural disasters, including situations of complex emergencies.

The media practitioners were also asked to validate their report specially on covering conflict. “We request the media people to always exercise peace journalism and refrain from distorting the truth in covering the conflict in the Bangsamoro in order not to add more to the agony and sufferings of the hapless victims,” the group elucidated.

Among the signatories to the statement were: Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc.; Cotabato Center for Peace and Development Initiatives, Inc. (CCPDI); Suara Kalilintad; United Youth  for Peace and Development  (North Cotabato Clusters 1, 2 and 3); Integrated Mindanawon Association of Natives (IMAN); Grassroots Against  Poverty and Hunger (GAP-Hunger); Bantay Ceasefire ; Early Warning Early Response (EWER); Local Initiatives for Peace and Development (LIPAD); MyPeace; Oblates of Mary Immaculate Foundation, Inc.-Interreligious Dialogue (OMFI-IRD); Tiyakap Kalilintad Incorporated (TKI) – North Cotabato and Maguindanao Chapters; and Community-Based Peace and Protection Center (CBPPC) – North Cotabato and Maguindanao Chapters.