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

ILIGAN CITY CITY (MindaNews / 24 June) — The Government and the Maute Group have responded to calls from various groups to declare a humanitarian ceasefire on Eid’l Fitr, the end of the month-long Ramadan on Sunday, the government declaring a unilateral “humanitarian pause” from 6 a.m. to 2 pm., the Maute Group reciprocating it.

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.

CBATTERED CITY. Dark smoke rise from buildings in Marawi City after Philippine Air Force warplanes bombed suspected Maute Group positions on Saturday (24 June 2017). MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez, chief of the Western Mindanao Command who is overseeing the operations against the Maute Group in Marawi told MindaNews Saturday night that the eight-hour unilateral “humanitarian pause”  has been approved by Gen. Eduardo Ano, Armed Forces Chief of Staff, “to pay our respects” to Muslims celebrating Eid’l Fitr.

Galvez told MindaNews Friday afternoon that he does not see any problem in allowing a humanitarian ceasefire but the Maute Group might have a problem.

“Walang problema po sa akin. Baka sa Maute may problema tayo dahil hindi man sila tunay na Muslim” (I don’t have a problem with that. But the Maute might have a problem with that because they are not real Muslims), he said.

The Maute Group, however, is also 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.

The eight-hour humanitarian ceasefire on Sunday is twice the number of hours allotted for the humanitarian ceasefire on June 4, also a Sunday.

No, this is not Aleppo
This is Marawi City, Sunday morning, 04 June 2017. A member of the Joint Coordinating, Monitoring, and Assistance Center of the GPH-MILF Peace Corridor assists an elderly woman leave the conflict zone, one of 134 trapped civilians rescued Sunday morning during a four-hour “humanitarian pause.” Photo courtesy of BANGSAMORO NEWS

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.

He told MindaNews Saturday afternoon that the humanitarian ceasefire on Eid’l Fitr was already “agreed in principle” but mechanics had yet to be discussed.

He said the GPH-MILF Peace Corridor also “wants to take the opportunity to rescue other trapped civilians from the war zone and we in the province support their call.”

“We are working on that,” Dickson Hermoso, Assistant Secretary at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the GPH panel’s focal person for the Peace Corridor.

For the sake of Eid’l Fitr

The Ranao Ulama Leaders Conference on the Marawi Crisis, representing 23 Islamic organizations, convened on June 21 and 22 in Cagayan de Oro City, and urged President Rodrigo Duterte, whose grandmother was a Maranao, to “give us the opportunity and support in solving this issue.”

The leaders appealed to the President to declare “an immediate ceasefire and/or to stop the aerial bombing” to allow the civilians to return peacefully to their respective villages in Marawi, “help them rise again, and rehabilitate Marawi City from massive destruction.”

“For the sake of Eid’l fitr,   Mr. President, please show the Muslim community that you respect this forthcoming holy day,” the Ulama leaders said.

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 Conference also called on the the “Dawla Islamia / ISIS / Maute Group to give way by leaving Marawi City” on Eid’l Fitr to allow for the rescue of trapped civilians and the retrieval of cadavers inside the war zone, “and to allow the civilians to return to their respective houses.”

Still addressing the Maute Group, the Ulama leaders said they are “willing to see you for a dialogue, to solve this problem.”

The Ulama also appealed to political leaders “to use your utmost wisdom, and help each other and forget any political appellation or intrigues among you” and “let the people be your first priority”

Traditional negotiation 

On June 15, Maranao traditional leaders in the Lanao provinces asked President Duterte to give them a hand in driving the Maute Group out of Marwai so they can “return to our beloved city” before Eid’l Fitr.

During their meeting in Iligan, some 50 sultans, datus and baes agreed on what they will do to resolve the Marawi crisis and save the city from further destruction.

“Somehow, we could have influenced (the actions of) this radical people, however our voices were never recognized by the government to negotiate with them,” read a three-page letter-manifesto signed by the traditional leaders, most of whom sought refuge in Iligan.

“If you must know, Mr. President, conflicts between us can be resolved by us using traditional negotiation. These radical people in some way respect the elders of a clan,” the leaders’ letter-manifesto read.

A MindaNews report on the June 15 Iligan meeting quoted the oldest among the tranditional leaders, 92-year old Sheikh Haron Ali Tomawis, as saying a temporary ceasefire should be the first step to begin the resolution process.

As early as May 26, on the eve of Ramadan, the multisectoral Ranaw Rescue Team appealed to President Duterte to declare a “half day of no fighting” for a humanitarian corridor that would allow the safe passage of civilians out of the battlegrounds in Marawi.

The multisectoral Ranaw Rescue Team on the eve of Ramadan called on the President to “open half day of no fighting for access to recover civilians residing in battle areas.”  The month-long fasting began May 27.  (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)