Friday, March 27, 2015

Peace groups in Davao call for permanent suspension of military offensive

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 27): Peace groups in Davao call for permanent suspension of military offensive

Peace groups in Davao held a silent rally on Friday to mark the first year anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CAB) and urged government to suspend the all-out offensive against the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao.

Lindee Prieto, convenor of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and secretariat for the All-Out Peace, said the government must not only suspend the all-out offensive to pave the way for the graduation of students in the affected areas of Maguindanao but must consider a humanitarian ceasefire permanently.

Prieto, who led the silent rally attended by Muslim and non-Muslim communities on Friday, voiced concern of the increasing number of civilians leaving homes for the evacuation centers.

She said the latest figures showed the number of "bakwits" (evacuees) already reached over a hundred thousand people particularly from the Bangsamoro core areas and Tiduray communities.

“We are here not only to commemorate the first year anniversary of the peace agreement, but we are here to remember what we have gone through…what we have gained after the signing,” Prieto said in an interview.

Prieto voiced concern over the setbacks of the peace process after the Mamasapano incident and the all-out offensive that already derailed discussion of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

She said the BBL is already delayed although Congress assured to reopen hearings in April.

She said there were reports that 20,000 internally displaced persons have returned home after the military suspended the all-out offensive against the BIFF.

However, she was worried that people are still leaving their communities because of the level of insecurity in their area.

“We seek for the reassessment in the areas. Naghangyo mi sa publiko (We are appealing the public) for humanitarian help,” Prieto said.

Yesterday, taxi operators joined the call for peace under the campaign “Cabs for CAB”.

“We have the support of the operators after we have reached out to them,” Prieto said, emphasizing that they are involving more groups to join in calling to save the peace process. Taxi units have carried posters and posted stickers on their units calling for peace in Mindanao.

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