MARAWI CITY―Muslim clerics on Monday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the aerial assault on the terrorist Maute group in Marawi City to save civilian lives and spare the infrastructure in the area.
The National Ulama Conference of the Philippines said the government forces conducting combat operations in some areas must continue with their ground attacks instead of resorting to bombing sorties.
“We implore [Duterte] to cease immediately the airstrikes but to employ land attacks with the help of local military and police so that civilians will be protected and escorted to evacuation centers,” the Ulamas said in a statement to reporters.
Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a statement asked the government to ensure that the ceasefire mechanisms continued to work on the ground, and that any military operations against the group that perpetrated the violence in Marawi would not spark more fighting in other areas.
In other developments:
• Senator Nancy Binay said Monday the reported participation of children in the ongoing conflict in Marawi was alarming.
She called on the Armed Forces, Marawi City officials, residents and the media to confirm the reported use of child warriors by the Maute Group.
“I’m asking the AFP, local officials, residents and the media to confirm the presence of child warriors in Marawi,” Binay said.
• Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte said Monday the city government will be sending relief to the people who fled the fighting in Marawi and who are now in Iligan City.
She said they were now preparing the food packs that would be sent as soon as the city government was assured of the safety of the people who would be bringing the relief in Iligan City.
“We have prepared relief goods that we will be sent to Iligan, but we are still considering the safety of the people who will bring the food,” Duterte said.
• Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the people sowing terror in Mindanao were the enemies and not the government or the men in uniform.
He called on the public to view President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao as a necessary step to neutralize the terrorists.
“The terrorists are the threat here,” Pimentel said.
“They have repeatedly shown an utter disregard for the sanctity of human life and have shown that they will not hesitate to resort to violence and mayhem to further their ends.”
The Ulamas also implored government agencies such as the Social Welfare and Health departments to respond to the needs of the Marawi residents, most of whom were Maranaos and who had been evacuated due to the fighting there.
“This the time, Mr. President, to show us that you have Maranao blood, and that you will correct the historical injustices committed against the Moros,” the Ulamas said.
Earlier, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, the archbishop of Cotabato, issued the statement condemning the “terroristic acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives.
“In the strongest terms we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace.
“Distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility.”
As the martial law is being implemented all over Mindanao, Quevedo has urged for calm, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority and not to provoke violent reaction.
“Urge the government to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good,” he said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Pearl A. Gajunera