By Chito A. Chavez
More or less 750 volunteers from Metro Manila and various regions in Mindanao converged on Wednesday in the conflict areas of Mindanao to voice their call for humanitarian intervention to communities affected by the clash between government troops and the terrorist group Maute.
Led by Kalinaw Mindanao (KM), an alliance of faith-based service organizations, human rights and people’s organizations, the volunteers joined the call for an interfaith intervention through a National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM).
Jerome Socor Aba, convenor of KM, said the move is geared towards bringing relief and medical services to victims and evacuees, as well as to document human rights violations brought about by the declaration of Martial Law.
He noted that the move covered five mission areas namely Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, Iligan City in Lanao del Norte, Matanao in Davao del Sur, President Roxas in North Cotabato, and Mamasapano in Maguindanao.
In Iligan City, 200 volunteers converged at the mini-theater of the Mindanao State Unversity – Iligan Institute of Technology for an opening program of the NIHM.
“Kalinaw, meaning peace, is what we seek in Mindanao. So much suffering and violence have been done to the Mindanawons, especially our Moro brothers and sisters. This has to stop now,” said Aida Ibrahim, spokesperson of Kalinaw Mindanao-Northern Mindanao Region.
“We will visit victims of forced evacuations, both home-based and in evacuation centers, to know their situation and their needs. We will also provide relief packs, and conduct psychosocial intervention to women and children. We will also listen to the stories of Marawi residents on the extent of damage done by military airstrikes and the martial law in Mindanao,” she added.
Gathering from our initial research, Ibrahim said there are more than 200,000 evacuees from Marawi.
She added 3,584 families or 21,000 individuals, mostly children, elderly and women have fled to Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.
Evacuees in the gymnasium of Balo-I, Lanao del Norte have already put up signs inside the evacuation centers saying “Please stop martial law and stop bombing in Marawi City. Marami ng sirang mga buhay at pag-aari at mga civilian na nabobombahan dahil sa di pumipili ang bomba ng tinatamaan sa Marawi.”
Ibrahim said, “Mahal na pangulo, ipatigil mo na ang martial law. Maawa kayo sa aming mga mamamayan. Parang awa mo na pabalikin mo na ang mga sundalo para makabalik na kami sa mga tahanan namin… kawawa kaming mga civilians!”
“Their message is clear – it is the civilian communities who are defeated during martial law not the terrorists. It is the lives of the children and the evacuees that are ruined. We call on the peace loving Filipinos to join us in responding to the immediate needs of victims. We encourage the public to show support in calling for peace in Mindanao for the Moro people, Christians and Lumad,” Ibrahim noted.
Aba asserted that the Moro people are not terrorists as he condemned the terror acts of the Maute group, the exaggerated counter-terror response by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
He added that this has aggravated the situation of the Marawi residents and their communities.
Kalinaw Mindanao serves as a response of different groups to the call for a Muslim-Christian unity in addressing the root cause of the conflict in Mindanao and for the promotion of a just and lasting peace.