COTABATO CITY (March 25, 2023) Sitio Balikakab, Barangay Dalgan, Pagalungan, Maguindanao del Sur are among of affected community on the mortar shelling and airstrike due to armed conflict between the Philippine government forces and ISIS inspired group Dawlah Islamiyah and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in marshy areas of the said town.
Barangay Kagawad, Ebrahim Bailaman said that there were houses hit by mortars, and since the lawless groups were no longer present in the military target community, he appealed to stop the mortar shelling and ceasefire mechanism to intervene.
“Kagina ka yabun kambityala na dabun san, na bangeni kami sa tabang sa kat’lnan din inan a pinggulan ka sikami kapasangan. Kapasangan kami sa kapigkawyag ka natagag su mga bangangawidan, su pamilya nami na nakadzambal samaya sa imbalabala,” Balaiman said in Maguindanaon, stressed that they are facing hardship due to lost of economic income and displacement of their families.
The Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) commented that nothing has changed in the tactics the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its operation against ISIS inspired groups had used even during their war with the Moro Fronts.
“What is a Focused military operation? Focused on one area regardless of who will get hurt? Is using bombs and mortars not an overkill when fighting a handful of criminals?”, it continued.
“Remember the infamous Marawi Siege? 5 years since then, thousands of IDPs are still languishing in temporary shelters after their villages were destroyed by bombs and mortars?”, it added.
CBCS pointed out that they have nothing against fighting the enemies of the state but must seriously consider that the lives of the civilians are more valuable than the lives of the criminals.
“One civilian life lost or one house destroyed is too many for poor but peace-loving communities. The state has the obligation to protect the lives, properties and freedom of the law-abiding citizens as part of the social contract between the people and the duty-bearers, the government. The civilians cannot simply be collateral damage,” it said.
The CBCS Human Rights and Transitional Justice Desk calls for the reparation of all the damages due to the focus military operation of the AFP.
“We also appeal to the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission to investigate the plight of the civilians affected by the operations. We call upon all peace-loving citizens to join hands in protecting the rights of the people even during wars,” CBCS said.
Meanwhile, the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission (BHRC) had expressed its deep concern over the displacement of civilian populations in Barangay Dalgan, Pagalungan Municipality, caused by the focused military operation conducted by the 602nd Brigade of the Philippine Army against the alleged presence of Dawlah Islamiyah and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters terrorist factions in the area.
In their official statement urge and call the attention of the duty bearers to prevent violence and ensure the protection of the lives of civilians and their right to life and property.
“We call out the established peace mechanisms, relevant agencies, and authorities to protect the lives and properties of the civilian population and provide relief assistance to those who have been displaced by the conflict, and ensure their safe return to their respective communities, especially in this holy month of Ramadan,” the statement continued.
The BCHR said that displacement of civilians is a violation of their human rights as enshrined in various international human rights laws and instruments. As such, the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission strongly emphasizes that all efforts must be made to ensure the protection of the rights of internally displaced persons, including their right to life, liberty, and security of person, their right to adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care, and their right to return to their homes and communities safely.
“We emphasize that violence must already stop and that all parties involved must respect the holy month of Ramadan. We call on all parties to refrain from using violence as a means to achieve their objectives and to engage in dialogue and peaceful negotiation toward a just and lasting peace,” BHRC appealed.
The Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission also assured the public that it will stand to the truth and ready to monitor and investigate any human rights violations that may arise from the conflict and calls on all parties to fully cooperate with BHRC efforts to promote and protect human rights in and outside the Bangsamoro region. ### (Tu Alid Alfonso/BMN/BangsamoroToday, Photo by Ersad Abdulatip, Voice Fm Cotabato)