134 trapped civilians rescued in 4-hr humanitarian ceasefire in Marawi
MARAWI CITY – At least 134 trapped civilians were rescued when military and the Islamic State-inspired gunmen observed a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire on the 13th day of hostilities here.
Armed with megaphones, five teams composed of Moro Islamic Liberation Front members, went out to the war zone areas calling for trapped civilians to come out of their hiding places.
“We are able to retrieve 134 children, men, women, elderly and the sick,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process assistance secretary Dickson Hermoso told reporters.
He said the ceasefire happened after an emissary helped negotiate with the militants on Saturday.
But one team was not able to do its task as fighting erupted in one part of Barangay Banggolo at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.
Mayor Majul Gandamra said they did not know who fired first.
Agakhan Shareif, a civil society group leader in Marawi and one those involved in the rescue efforts, said they were nearing Barangay Banggolo, where they will fetch trapped civilians, when exchange of gunfire erupted.
“May mga snipers (There are snipers),” he said.
Regional Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, the acting spokesperson of the provincial government, had directed the rescue team to proceed to the capitol for safety.
The other teams, however, were able to rescue 134 trapped civilians.
Hermoso said the government’s emissary negotiated directly with Abduallah Maute, one of the leaders of the armed men.
He said there was no condition set by Maute for the peace corridor to take effect.
“We don’t know what prompted Abdullah to make such move, but maybe for humanitarian reason,” he said.
“Again, we request both sides to open a humanitarian space so that we can get all those trapped civilians in the war zone,” he added.
Government peace panel chair Irene Santiago said members of the MILF ceasefire committee participated in the effort to rescue trapped civilians.
President Duterte last week approved the creation of peace corridor amid the crisis.
“The peace corridor was going to be a way, a safe passage of peace and relief goods. This is jointly implemented by implementing panels of the government of the Philippines and the MILF,” Santiago said.
“We opened that peace corridor and you can see that we were able to accomplish so much in so little time,” she added.
Santiago said Sunday’s peace corridor covered the area from Banggulo bridge up to Quezon Avenue of Marawi, which is about three kilometers.
But Santiago explained that the government was not negotiating with the terrorists.
“We did not offer anything to them. When you are negotiating, you try not to offer anything. And that’s exactly what we did,” she said.
She said around 1,000 to 2,000 civilians are still trapped in the war zone.
“After what happened today, we are still optimistic that we can do it again,” she said.
As of June 2, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-Heart) has recorded a total of 221,275 internally displaced persons. Of the total number, 58,160 persons are in evacuation centers while 163,115 are staying with relatives outside Marawi.
At 2 p.m. Sunday, or two hours after the ceasefire expired, fighting continued, with government planes dropping bombs on suspected locations of militants. –Richel V. Umel and Jeoffrey Maitem with a report from Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao
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