To save lives is the issue

The real issue that is at stake in the current Marawi City crisis is how to save lives especially those of civilians including children, women, the ailing and sickly, and the aged who are still trapped inside the battle zone. Other issues take back seat or secondary consideration.

This is the reason the MILF only offered humanitarian intervention to the raging inferno in Marawi City, as contrasted to the positions taken by the MNLF faction under Nur Misuari and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Misuari offered 5,000 of his so-called MNLF fighters to reinforce government troops battling the so-called Maute group. On the other hand, the NDFP offer was to fight terrorism alongside government forces.

The most that government can do vis-à-vis these offers is not to say anything. Keeping mum on them is as good as rejecting the offers.

Clearly, the reasons behind this MILF decision are anchored more on both moral and practical considerations --- and not on rhetoric and pure propaganda hallucination.

It is the moral responsibility of every human being to help one another especially during the hour of extreme need. And this responsibility is incumbent whether those involved are Muslims or not. On the practical side, the decision does not involve making elaborate or sensitive security arrangements with government, say transporting weapons and combatants. This is virtually impossible for those armed groups which do not have formal ceasefire agreements with the government. Even those groups with ceasefire agreement with the government, the high-profile display of weapons is generally not encouraged or allowed.

More seriously, stopping a conflagration will not succeed by pouring more gasoline into it, so to speak. Also sending more weapons and combatants will only enlarge the battle arena and increase the collateral damage to the non-combatants.

However, even without thinking of it, the necessary consequence of such sincere concerns to the safety of the civilians would be an add-on legitimacy, say to the MILF.

In this regard, what is also consoling and encouraging is the equally high interest and earnest concern of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the safety of the civilians. He readily supported the idea of creating the “peace corridor” which is supposedly a pathway for relief such as food, medicines, and other extremely need supplies. It would also provide safe-way for civilians who are fleeing the battle zone.

Right now, after the meeting of the peace corridor committee today (June 1), the ceasefire committees and AHJAG of the government and MILF have emplaced in Marawi City and Malabang, Lanao del Sur joint task forces to plan for the start of the implementation of relief operations and rescue of civilians still in the battle zone. Their coordination with the military is of primary consideration.

The meeting between leaders of the MILF and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in Davao City last May 29 had this issue as the main agenda. Of course, other agenda were also discussed such as the issue of martial law and the peace process as well as all its peace mechanisms.

The last words uttered by the president when the MILF leaders bid good bye were: “Thank you for the visit and the offer to help.”