DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 06 August) — At least five bombs hit civilian areas far from the main battle area in Marawi City at around 7 a.m. Sunday. Fortunately, no one was hurt but the explosions triggered panic and evacuation.
The military spokesperson said the bombs did not come from them but may have been caused by “retaliatory fires from the enemy.”
Amerol Ariel, Regional Manager of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) told MindaNews his wife fainted and his children suffered trauma when a howitzer exploded at the back of their house in Barangay Cadayonan in Marawi City, at the boundary with Marantao town in Lanao del Sur.
The area is just outside the Mindanao State University main campus, at least five kilometers away from the conflict zone.
The gate of the residence of Baicon Cayongcat, National Programme Officer of the World Food Programme, was partly destroyed. The gate is less than 200 meters from Ariel’s house.
Cayongcat told MindaNews that only her caretaker was home at the time of the explosion but her neighbor, Provincial Agriculturist Engr. Mohamadali Macaraya, whose area was also hit, already filed a complaint at the provincial capitol.
Most of the residents in the villages around MSU have opted to remain instead of evacuate because of its distance from the main battle area (MBA) or the conflict zone. MSU President, Dr. Habib Macaayong and several faculty members have actually remained inside the campus since clashes between government forces and the ISIS-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City broke out in the commercial district on May 23.
Cayongcat said residents in their village “were thinking na safe lang doon because that area is not affected” by the ongoing war in the downtown area which entered Day 76 on Sunday.
Ariel’s family sought refuge in another town in Lanao del Sur.
Our gate, Our home
“This gate is also ours, it’s our home, the home of peace builders and youth leaders in Lanao.,” Asmarie Macadato Labao, a young Moro environmentalist said of Cayongcat’s house.
Cayongcat said her house has been the venue of several meetings for young Moro leaders for “peace promotion.”
In her Facebook post, Cayongcat said she was discussing with friends and colleagues Saturday night on how they can better respond to the Marawi Crisis and that her house was “going to be one of the host homes upon return — for my lifelines whose houses have been affected.”
To address decongestion in evacuation centers and host communities, “I have been advocating also that the return should commence in areas where it is safe, or spared from the recent encounters, like my place or those near MSU.”
Early Sunday morning, Cayongcat received a call “followed thereafter by so many calls and messages inquiring on our safety and my house because of the recent bombing.”
Robert Maulana Marohombsar Alonto, a former member of the peace panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, asked why the bombs exploded in areas supposedly considered “safe zone.”
He said the explosions were not caused by air strikes but by “munitions fired from howitzers or artillery” and that he was informed it may have been an “accidental miscalculation.” If it were, he said, the area where the bombs exploded is “far, far off from the battle area in downtown Marawi.”
“The trajectory of the howitzer fire ought to be in the direction of the fighting area and not in the opposite direction,” Alonto said, adding the question should be posed to the military: “Are those manning the artillery new to the job that they just fire their cannons in any direction? But whether it was an error in calculation or what, innocent civilian lives are at stake. The people of Marawi are people, for God’s sake, not inanimate targets for artillery practice,” he said.
“Not from us”
Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of Joint Task Force Marawi said the military immediately conducted an investigation on the reported explosions “and the initial result is indicative that it could be caused by retaliatory fires from the enemy.
“None of our indirect fire weapons was employed this morning; none that could possibly reach the area of impact,” Petinglay said.
She said they are still “further investigating as to where particularly the enemy fires came from” and will give updates “the soonest information is obtained.”
Drieza Liningding, Secretary-General of the Bangsamoro National Movement for Peace and Development and co-founder of the militant youth organization, Free The Bangsamoro Movement, said the United Nations or the Organization of Islamic Cooperation “should investigate the Marawi War especially its impact on innocent civilians.”
He described their situation as “genocide and a violation of International Humanitarian Law.”
Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Provincial Crisis Management Committee told MindaNews he will meet with the military on the issue of bomb explosions in civilian areas.
Before the war, the first semester of schoolyear 2017-2018 at the MSU main campus in Marawi was supposed to start on Monday, August 7 but enrolment has been extended until August 11.
MSU President Macaayong told MindaNews on Saturday that enrolment, which started on July 31 and was supposed to end on August 4, has been extended “one week more.”
He said they have an “understanding with the military that we will wait for their advice” when classes will begin.
“Mag-clase kami sa August 14,” Macaaayong said.
But Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez told MindaNews on Saturday that August 14 is not possible but they will see if classes can begin on August 22.
“The threat is very imminent” in MSU and “we need to eliminate first the threat,” Galvez said. He declined to say what the threat is. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)