UN, OIC’s help sought in Mindanao conflict


By Richel V. Umel and Malu Cadelina Manar


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MARAWI CITY — Some 5,000 Maranaos took to the streets Thursday their call for the United Nations (UN) and the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to help end the armed conflict in Mindanao.

It was the biggest anti-war rally in Mindanao since full-scale fighting began in August after the junking of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) initialed by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

What’s your take on the Mindanao crisis? Discuss views with other readers

Waving banners and streamers with calls for a halt in the indiscriminate bombing of Moro communities, the rallyists marched from Bangolo to the Army headquarters in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City.

“We are angry. We want an end to this war,” said Haj Abdullah Lacs Dalidig, leader of the Islamic Movement for Electoral Reform for Good Government.

Dalidig said Moro communities in Central Mindanao and two Lanao provinces have bear the brunt of the military offensive to catch the two MILF commanders — Umbra Kato and Abdul Rahman alias Commander Bravo — accused of carrying attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte.

“Our communities have been subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment that did not happen anywhere else in the country. Communities in Luzon and Visayas did not suffer like we do,” he said.

Dalidig said the UN and OIC should step in to end the war and bring the failed peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the MILF back on its track.

The peace rally came as new clashes erupted in Maguindanao province killing four soldiers and five guerrillas Thursday.

In a manifesto, the Consortium for the Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), composed of several non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, academe, and religious groups, said that with the mediation of the two strong and very influential global organizations, there would be cessation of hostilities in Mindanao.

The group has also called on the UN to investigate and determine the true cause and extent of the war in Mindanao.

The group felt the Moro people are still bereft of their inherent rights as a distinct sovereign nation.

“When, after many decades of so-called peace negotiations, the Bangsamoro people wake up to the harsh truth of the abominable situation of sustained betrayal, manipulation, lying, cheating, and killing by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” it stressed.

Meanwhile, International humanitarian agencies have raised concerns over their safety when delivering aid to thousands of people displaced in the southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said the issue was aired during a meeting between a special government taskforce on refugee and various UN agencies.

“One of the issues raised was the security of international aid workers and other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) who are helping in the relief operations,” he said.

But providing troops to escort food convoys could also strain soldiers on the frontlines against the MILF, which has been locked in heavy fighting with troops since August.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday that it is providing emergency aid for thousands of people displaced by fighting with Moro rebels in the southern Philippines.

The P15-million package will provide medicines and medical supplies and ensure safe water for some 38,000 families in evacuation centers in the south, the WHO said in a statement in Manila.

“Evacuees are vulnerable to diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory tract infection that may be acquired because of crowding and less than ideal environmental conditions in temporary shelters,” WHO representative Soe Nyunt-U was quoted as saying.

Journalists covering the war also raised concern of their safety after unidentified gunmen strafed a van carrying reporters and photographers of the Agence France Press in Datu Piang town last Tuesday.

Red Batario, Asia-Pacific regional coordinator for International News Safety Institute (INSI), said no one of the journalists was hurt but the incident was “sobering reminder that the situation in hostile environments can rapidly change, putting lives at risk.”

Batario said new guidelines were emailed to news organizations to ensure the safety of their reporters, TV cameramen and photographers.

“It is important for members of the media to make themselves easily identifiable as such especially when using unmarked, private vehicles,” Batario said. (Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

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