Rights groups extend relief to evacuees


KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/30 September) — Human rights groups in Southwestern Mindanao conducted a two-day relief mission in areas in North Cotabato and Maguindanao affected by the resumption of hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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Dubbed “Duyog sa Ramadan” (In solidarity with Ramadan), the Suara Bangsamoro, Kawagib Moro Human Rights Organization, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and ACT International, started on Monday the distribution of relief items to hundreds of remaining evacuees in the towns of Aleosan, Midsayap, and Pikit in North Cotabato.

Suara national president Amira Lidasan said they have given packed foods to residents from the villages of Katinggawan, Rangaban, Baliki and Lindongan in Midsayap; Bagolibas and Pagangan in Aleosan; and Nalapaan in Pikit.

The packs included rice, mongo, sugar, sugar, salt, and dried fish.

“This is our way of helping our people during Eid al-Fitr (Hariraya Puasa). Also, this is just a modest respite to the protracted torment of Moro people,” the group said.

Kawagib spokesperson Bai Ali Indayla expressed dismay that “the military has refused to heed our cries” for a suspension of military operations during the holy month of Ramadan.

“This government showed no sign of respect to the Muslims’ most significant occasion,” Indayla said.

In a recent fact-finding mission in Maguindanao, the group found out that the military has set up temporary command posts in areas near the evacuation sites.

One proof, it said, was the encounter between government soldiers and Moro rebels last Friday near the Datu Gumbay Elementary School in Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Seven civilians, four of them children, were reportedly wounded.

The school, used temporarily as evacuation center, is near the temporary command post of the 601st Brigade.

“If only the AFP would pull out their troops in Moro communities, there will be no more evacuees. Muslims in the evacuation centers have only one wish – return home and celebrate Eid al-Fitr peacefully,” Indayla said. (Malu Cadeliña Manar/MindaNews)

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