Minda peace group appeals for sparing of civilians in Zamboanga standoff

...calls on Philippine government to rectify handling of peace pact with MNLF

The Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (INPEACE) today said the ongoing armed standoff in Zamboanga City following the Moro National Liberation Front’s declaration of independence one month ago “should be handled very carefully by the Philippine government.”

INPEACE Chairperson Bishop Felixberto Calang, however, called on both armed protagonists--- the GPH through the armed forces and the MNLF fighters--- to adhere to international humanitarian law to protect the rights of civilians and the hors de combat.

“Civilians--- whether Christian or Moro---- should be spared from the armed conflict; people in the streets and communities of Zamboanga are being traumatized by the conflict. They are protected by international humanitarian law. But negotiations should now prevail over further armed confrontation to prevent more bloodshed and casualties,” said Calang, a bishop of the Philippine Independent Church.

“The Philippine government must review its compliance with the signed 1996 Peace Agreement with the MNLF,” he added.

“The government obviously brushed off the MNLF’s independence declaration on August 12 this year in Sulu, little knowing that it posed a serious armed warning from a legitimate revolutionary movement that has obviously felt left out from the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB),” Calang said.

“The Moro question remains to be a complex problem and unless the roots of armed revolution are addressed and their right to self-determination is sincerely and genuinely upheld, it will pose as a gnawing wound in Philippine realpolitik,” Calang said.