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    URGENT appeal for internally displaced population of Maguindanao and North Cotabato

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    Greetings of peace!

    On 25 February, 2015, President Benigno Aquino III, through Gen. Pio Catapang, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), declared all-out war against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF was accused of coddling suspected terrorists Abdulbasit Usman and more than 300 men allegedly trained by Zulkipli bin Hir (alias Marwan) in bomb-making.

    The declaration came a month after residents in Mamasapano, Maguindanao forcibly evacuated due to the possibility of another clash between government forces and rebel groups in the area after the botched operations last January 25, 2015 that rendered dead 44 SAF-PNP commandos. While there was much hype over the death of the police commandos in  said operation, human rights violations against civilians were documented on the ground such as extrajudicial killing and frustrated extrajudicial killing, forced evacuation, destruction of properties, child rights violations and involvement of US personnel in the operations. (Please refer to the attached report of the People’s Fact Finding Mission February 2015)

    On 27 February 2015, composite units of the 6th Infantry Division (2nd Mechanized Battalion, 8th Marine Battalion Landing Team, 33rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, 45th IBPA, Scout Ranger, 1stMechanized Battalion, Special Forces, 601st IBPA, 602nd IBPA, and 603rd IBPA) and Philippine National Police Regional Office units in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) launched ground and aerial attacks in Salbo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak towns in Maguindanao where the military targets were supposedly located. Prior to this, on 21 February, the 7th IBPA launched an artillery attack in Pikit, North Cotabato.

    Since the Philippine government launched the all-out offensive against the BIFF, the ARMM-Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) has documented 123, 537 persons or 24, 714 families (as of March 13, 2015) displaced in the 11 municipalities in Maguindanao because of the ongoing military operations. Most of them left their homes and are now in cramped evacuation centers or their relatives’ houses —sick, hungry, and traumatized.

    Initial documentation of Karapatan and partner organizations in the area indicate various forms of human rights and international humanitarian law violations committed by state agents in the implementation of the government’s all-out war. Documented violations include forced evacuation and divestment of properties due to heavy military presence, indiscriminate firing, shelling of mortars, and aerial bombing that resulted to destruction of properties of civilians. Indiscriminate firing of military troops also resulted in wounding of civilians or frustrated extrajudicial killing. Civilians also experienced threat, harassment, and intimidation by soldiers encamped in public and religious structures in the communities.

    On March 26, 2015, Gen. Catapang announced that the military’s all out offensives will last until June this year.

    Karapatan is appealing for your support for the thousands of civilians displaced because of the military’s all-out war. The evacuees are in need of food, medicines (for diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection, hypertension, coughs and cold, fever), clothes, laundry soap, sleeping mats and potable water. They also need slippers and change of clothes, especially the children with infected wounds. Karapatan will join the 2nd Peace and Humanitarian Mission of its Mindanao partner organizations in April 2015 to deliver the aforementioned forms of support. You may email us at karapatan@karapatan.org for details on how your support can be sent.

    We appeal to you to send letters of concern to agencies of the Philippine Government to call for the following:

    1. Stop the all-out war against the Bangsamoro people,
    2. Immediately pull-out the military troops from civilian communities,
    3. Stop threats and harassment against civilians
    4. Provide immediate sufficient relief assistance for the evacuees (food, medicines, etc.) and rehabilitate displaced civilians and destroyed public infrastructures.
    5. Immediately investigate the military airstrikes and combat operations in the affected communities,
    6. Indemnify the victims of human rights and international humanitarian law violations
    7. The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innocent and unarmed civilians, and
    8. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

    Please send your letters to the following:

    E. Benigno S. Aquino III
    President of the Philippines
    2/F Bonifacio Hall, Malacañang, Manila
    Tel: 733-3010 loc 882/ 887
    Website: president.gov.ph

    Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles
    Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
    7/F Agustin I Building,
    F. Ortigas Jr. Road,
    Ortigas Center, Pasig City
    Tel: 6360701 to 06 / 637-6083
    Fax: 638-2216
    Email: stqd@opapp.net
    Website: opapp.gov.ph

    Secretary Leila M. de Lima
    Department of Justice (DOJ)
    DOJ Main Building,
    Padre Faura Street, Manila
    Tel: 521-1908
    Fax: 523-5548
    Email: doj.delime@gmail.com
    Website: doj.gov.ph

    Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin
    Department of National Defense (DND)
    DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City
    Tel: 911-6193 / 911-1746
    Fax 911-6213
    Website: dnd.gov.ph

    Hon.  Loretta Ann P. Rosales
    Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
    SAAC Building, UP Complex
    Commonwealth Avenue
    Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
    Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
    Fax: (+632) 929 0102
    Email:   chair.rosales.chr@gmail.comlorettann@gmail.com

    And to the Philippine embassies and consulate offices in your respective countries

    Please send us a copy of your email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

    Thank you very much and our deepest appreciation for your solidarity.

    Sincerely yours,

    (sgd) Marie Hilao Enriquez
    Chairperson, Karapatan

    (sgd) Cristina Palabay
    Secretary General, Karapatan

    ———————————————————————
    PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
    publicinfo@karapatan.org
    ———————————————————————

    Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
    2nd Flr. Erythrina Building
    #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Streets
    Central District, Diliman,
    Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
    Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
    Web: http://www.karapatan.org

    KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties.  It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.

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