8-hour “humanitarian pause” to be lifted if…

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) –Government on Saturday night declared an eight-hour “humanitarian pause” from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday to “give reverence to the supposed peaceful, joyous and festive spiritual celebration” of  Eid’l Fitr, the end of the month-long Ramadan, a press statement from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

But the press statement clarified that “humanitarian pause” will only cover “a halt in our employment of our capabilities” and that it will be lifted “immediately if any of the following conditions ensue: (1) our troops’ security is jeopardized; (2) safety of civilians is threatened; and (3) if the enemy starts firing and at which point anyone can exercise their right to self-defense.”

Rescuers from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front team in the Government-MILF Peace Corridor aid an elderly male out of the conflict zone on June 4, 2017 in Marawi City during a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire negotiated between the government and the Maute Group by an emissary. Several attempts have been made since June 4 to go for another humanitarian pause to get the trapped civilians out. Photo courtesy of BANGSAMORO NEWS

The “humanitarian pause,” the second in the month-long clashes between government forces and the Maute Group, is twice longer than the June 4 “humanitarian pause” that led to the rescue of initially at least 134 residents trapped in the conflict zone.

“To give reverence to the supposed peaceful, joyous and festive spiritual celebration, the AFP upon the approval of the CSAFP (Chief of Staff of the AFP) intends to declare a stop in our current operations in the city on that day to serve as a gesture of our strong commitment and respect to the Muslim world particularly to the local Muslims of Marawi City,” a press statement sent by Galvez to MindaNews Saturday night read.

Galvez told MindaNews that AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Ano had approved the declaration.

Various groups have appealed to both Government and the Maute Group for a ceasefire on Eid’l Fitr, to allow Muslims in the country’s lone Islamic City, to pray in peace on this holy event, allow residents still trapped here for a month now to walk to freedom, and possibly allow the retrieval of the dead for proper burial.

READ: Gov’t and Maute Group: humanitarian ceasefire on Eid’l Fitr 

The Maute Group is amenable to the humanitarian ceasefire, the emissary of the Government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF’s) Peace Corridor told MindaNews Saturday. The emissary negotiated with the Maute Group to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire on June 4.

“Okay sila kahit ilang oras” (They agreed to whatever time is needed),  said the emissary, a prominent personality in Lanao del Sur, who helped pave the way for a four-hour humanitarian ceasefire that led to the rescue of, initially, 134 residents, and later 179 residents that day.

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee told Mindanews Friday afternoon in Marawi that there are still “300 to 500” trapped residents in the conflict zone.

Another 100 hostages are still held by the Maute Group, including Catholic priest Teresito “Chito” Soganub, Vicar General of the Prelature of Marawi. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)