Protect civilians in conflict zones, peace advocates urge military
COTABATO CITY — Peace advocates have urged the government to ensure the safety of civilians as the government intensified pursuit operations against a faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group which the military had linked to the Islamic State, in Maguindanao province.
“We invoke the State’s responsibility to ensure the safety of civilians and to protect and fulfill the rights of internally displaced persons during evacuation until their safe and dignified return to their places of origin,” Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), said in a statement.
He said the government should provide “utmost priority to the humanitarian needs of the affected communities and ensure civilian protection.”
IID, citing reports from government and nongovernment groups in Mindanao, placed the number of families displaced by the fighting at 5,136 (23,465 individuals) from the towns of Pagalungan, Datu Montawal, Sultan sa Barongis and General Salipada K. Pendatun in Maguindanao and Pikit town in North Cotabato province.
IID also sought an investigation of the reported deaths of a 14-year-old boy and a pregnant woman at the height of mortar shelling operations at Lower Idtig, General Salipada K. Pendatun, on June 16 and the reported killing of an elderly resident and a 13-year-old boy during a military raid at Barangay Olandang in Midsayap town, North Cotabato, on June 12.
Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, 6th Infantry Division commander, assured that the protection of civilians during military operations had been a priority by the military.
“Government forces have remained committed to defending the people against violent extremism and terrorists,” Sobejana said in a statement. —Edwin Fernandez
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