In the face of escalating conflict, rights group calls on the Parties to stop the hostilities

Rights group reiterates call on the Parties in conflict to ensure the safety of civilians at all times; stop the hostilities and resolve issues on the negotiating table

KARAPATAN reiterates the call it earlier made to both Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  and the Government to abide by their obligations to uphold human rights and protect the lives of civilians at all times.

"In advancing the legitimate struggle for the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro people, the MILF must accomplish their objectives with utmost respect for civilians.  Attacks on civilians, especially children, is a deplorable act that will not earn the sympathy of anyone but only condemnation," declared Marie Hilao-Enriquez, secretary general of KARAPATAN.

"The heightening armed conflict in Mindanao, brought about to a large extent, by the government's bungling of the GRP-MILF peace process, is again resulting to massive violations of human rights and international humanitarian law," said Hilao-Enriquez, adding that the military offensives have likewise caused violations such as forced evacuation and destruction of properties.  Media has reported several incidents of civilians who were hurt due to mortar  shelling by government forces .

Hilao-Enriquez said "With the escalating number of evacuees, the two sides must stop the hostilities and return to the negotiating table to resolve the thorny issues. The evacuees' well-being must be considered."  KARAPATAN also called on government troops to allow peace, relief and fact-finding missions to conduct their humanitarian work unhampered.

"We also take exception to the Armed Forces of the Philippines' campaign of incitement to violence against KARAPATAN members," Hilao-Enriquez commented on the text messages being circulated in Davao by alleged elements of the AFP against KARAPATAN, accusing the rights group of tolerating the atrocities allegedly committed by the MILF.

"We denounce this latest tactics to discredit KARAPATAN members in the face of heightened conflict in Mindanao.  This is a dirty ploy to utilize the conflict, muddle the issue and increase the risks against the already endangered lives of our workers who are diligently doing their work as human rights defenders.  We call on these agents to refrain from this foul and cowardly act,"  Hilao-Enriquez said.  ###