All-Out Peace Statement of Appeal
We, the undersigned peace advocates, peace networks and civil society groups pursuing the ALL-OUT PEACE advocacy are collectively expressing our urgent humanitarian appeal for the suspension of military operations (SOMO) undertaken by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) starting in the “SPMS box” in Maguindanao – Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak and spilled over to Guindulungan, Talayan, Datu Piang where BIFF members allegedly have retreated with Abdulbasit Usman.
We express our grave concern over the glaring civilian protection and safety issues caused by the PNP-AFP joint intensified law enforcement operations (“all-out offensive”) declared last February 25 by AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang. The joint operation is now referred to as an “all-sectors offensive”- alluding to the involvement of citizens to give information on the elusive Usman. In just three (3) weeks, more than 130,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have suffered the brunt of the military operations (as of March 13 UNOCHA updates). Twelve (12) towns in Maguindanao are already under a ‘state of calamity’ and a staggering P13 million a week is being spent by government for food aid to the IDPs.
We are alarmed about the use of artillery shelling and airstrikes with bombs reportedly dropped near civilian homes. We note that the ground combat operations have intensified despite the increasing casualties –122 people killed [one hundred sixteen (116) BIFF rebels, six (6) soldiers and twenty three (23) soldiers wounded].
We categorically state that a “humanitarian crisis” is already staring us in the face as an effect of the prolonged military action against lawless elements. 1
We are urgently appealing to all peace-loving citizens to join this ‘humanitarian call’ and participate in mobilizing relief goods and encouraging solidarity with the IDPs by enabling their voices and stories to be heard.
We, henceforth, put forward the following urgent calls :
1. We urge the PNP-AFP to declare a SUSPENSION OF MILITARY OPERATIONS (SOMO) in the twelve (12) Maguindanao towns to allow full blown emergency assistance by humanitarian groups to displaced persons and families in the evacuation camps, homes of host families and community spaces.
a. ‘Reposition’ the military troops away from the civilian population and structures (i.e. schools, places of worship, markets and other sources of water, livelihood and public installations) to guarantee safety of communities and further demilitarize the conflict-affected communities.
2. We appeal for civic groups, other sectors and the general public to help in mobilizing humanitarian assis-tance in consonance with the emergency response protocols, standards and guidelines for relief drive and distribution;
3. We call for the primacy of civilian protection amidst the excessive and indiscriminate use of artillery shelling and airstrikes on civilian communities in Maguindanao. We remind the key actors to strongly adhere to the international humanitarian laws, specifically the 4th Geneva Convention, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID);
4. We call for the review of the terms of reference of the “Joint Task Force Central” which is the police-AFP-Marines coordinative body installed to oversee the law enforcement operations against the BIFF. We are alarmed by the roll out of an operations plan with no specific timetable, hence, we respectfully demand disclosure by the joint task force on the progress of its operations.
5. We seek support from media partners, learning institutions and peace communicators to generate and disseminate stories of the IDPs and the effects of the armed conflict brought about by a prolonged military operation especially on vulnerable women, young children and the elderly, in order to make a collective appeal to stop the military offensives.
6. We call for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the bill on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) that are still being deliberated in Philippine Congress. Crisis such as this emboldens the enactment of legal measures to prevent and reduce armed violence. We believe that an enhanced and enacted BBL remains the most viable legal vehicle that can address the Bangsamoro question and bring a more durable peace in Mindanao.
We have been battered by a series of unfortunate events over the last few months – from the Mamasapano tragedy last January 25, to the all-out military offensive declared on February 25. We remain hopeful, however that sobriety and reason will ultimately prevail, and that there will be a renewal of trust in the political settlement that accords genuine autonomy to Muslim Mindanao.
We believe that we will eventually overcome the current crisis, as we embrace our diversity as a people – accepting our differences, overcoming prejudices, and listening to the past and present narratives of the Moro, Lumad and Christian peoples.
Military action begets massive displacement and we, at ALL-OUT PEACE, denounce all forms of armed violence especially inflicted on poor and vulnerable communities.
Let’s altogether beat the gongs of peace, and not the drums of war!
Declare a humanitarian ceasefire, now!
Stop the intensified military offensives, now!
All-out humanitarian assistance, now!
~ ALL-OUT PEACE ~
March 16, 2015
National Convenors of All-Out Peace :
Friends of the Bangsamoro (FoBM)
Generation Peace Youth Network (GenPeace)
Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE)
Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW)
Mindanao CSO Peace Platform (MCSOPP)
Waging Peace Philippines (WPP)
Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WEAct 1325)
Convening and Founding Networks
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) – National Campaign Secretariat
Aksyon para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (AKKAPKA)
Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities
and Dialogue in Southeast Asia (Al Qalam)
Alternate Forum For Research in Mindanao, Inc (AFRIM)
Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO)
Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS)
Mindanao Solidarity Network (MSN) – Co-Convenor for Manila
Pax Christi Institute (PCI) – Co-Convenor for Visayas
Solidarity for Global Peace, Ecology, and
Inclusive Economic Development (SUCCCED Global, Inc.)
Sustainable Cooperation for Equitable
Enterprise Development (SUCCEED, Inc.)
Women’s Peace Tables (WPT)
- And as of March 13, 2015 (Friday), the IDPs rose to 19,075 families or 95,375 individuals according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DSWD-ARMM). While the Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) of ARMM also mentioned that the IDPs are housed in 72 evacuation sites from the following affected towns : Mamasapano, Datu Salibo, Shariff Saidona Mustapaha, Shariff Aguak, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Talayan, Datu Anggal, Midtimbang, Guindulungan, Datu Unsay, Talitay and Rajah Buayan.