Is AFP’s ‘all-out war’ underway in Maguindanao?

March 1, 2015

Soldiers were positioned near civilian houses in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. Photo: <b>Jerome Succor Aba</b>

Soldiers were positioned near civilian houses in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. Photo: Kilab Multimedia

Is the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launching an undeclared all-out war against the Moro people in Maguindanao?

This was the question asked by Moro human rights organization Suara Bangsamoro after military and police operations forced civilians from at least 12 barangays in Datu Unsay, Sharif Aguak, and Sharif Saidona towns in Maguindanao province to evacuate their homes, while many of their properties were destroyed.

Residents of Mamasapano, site of the now-infamous bloody encounter that led to the death of 44 police commandos, 18 Moro fighters and four civilians, complained of heavy military presence in their area.

“(We believe) that the encampment of the military in the areas near the civilian community has put in danger the lives of the residents,” said Jerome Succor Aba, Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson.

Media outlets reported that combined elements of the Philippine Army, Philippine Marines and the Philippine National Police (PNP) attacked Sitio Quary, Bgy. Maitumaig in Datu Unsay with airstrikes and mortar bombs. Residents complained that their houses were indiscriminately fired upon during the military operations.

The AFP said that the operations were a punitive action against elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Force (BIFF), a pursuit operation against suspected “terrorist” Basid Usman.

“Residents were forced to evacuate at 8:00 in the morning when the combined forces of the military and police started shooting at the community believed to be having a presence of the BIFF. Two hours after, the state forces started ground and aerial assaults, destroying some houses,” said Aba.

Aba said that one resident, Noria Kamid, 45, a farmer-resident of Sitio Quary, related to him that military helicopters shot at their community. A pregnant woman, Aga Zulkarnin, 27, also said that the military’s ground forces, as well as helicopters hovering over their communities, shot at them and forced many to flee.

Jerome Aba (left) interviews one of the civilians affected by the AFP attacks.

Jerome Aba (left) interviews one of the civilians affected by the AFP attacks.

The 12 barangays reportedly affected are Brgys. Pamalian and Sharif Saidona Mustapha from Sharif Saidona municipality; Brgys. Tina, Malingaw, Mungkas, Bagong, Maibunga, Kolumpang, Peking, and Dagutom from Sharif Aguak municipality; and Brgys. Maitumaig and Iganagampong from Datu Unsay.

“At least 17 amphibian tanks were positioned between the municipality crossings of Datu Saudi and Pagatin, while 26 units of 6 x 6 military trucks were also positioned in civilian communities three days before the attack,” added Aba.

He added that the operations are an “overkill” and may lead to a further escalation of the armed conflict in Maguindanao and nearby provinces.

“Suara Bangsamoro fears that this could be used to veer the public’s attention away from the Mamasapano incident that has garnered much criticism and protests against the Aquino administration. (The Aquino administration has) covered up its command responsibility for the botched-up operation that led to the encounter between the PNP-Special Action Force and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and resulted in deaths on both sides and on civilians,” Aba said.