The labor center SENTRO calls for an immediate ceasefire in the ongoing hostility between government security forces and elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), as well as the prompt and unconditional release of all civilian hostages.
Thousands are now trapped in the standoff between MNLF and government forces that resulted to the complete shutdown of Zamboanga City. They include members of the MUJERES, a federation of community-based women’s organizations in Zamboanga peninsula affiliated to the APL-SENTRO, who are residing in the affected areas.
“We call on both sides – MNLF and GRP – to stop all the hostilities and allow a peaceful solution to this conflict,” Frank Mero, SENTRO chairperson appealed.
“We also call on the MNLF to immediately release all the hostages,” Mero added after receiving news that hostages were taken by the MNLF.
SENTRO reminded the MNLF that using civilians as human shield is a violation of Rule 97 of the Third Geneva Convention (with respect to prisoners of war), the Fourth Geneva Convention (with respect to protected civilians), and Additional Protocol I (with respect to civilians in general).
SENTRO likewise cautioned the government and the military and other security forces not to use this situation to inflict harm especially to civilians and other non-combatants. Violations of human rights usually occur during this kind of conflict.
SENTRO firmly upholds the right of the Moro people for self-determination, but likewise believes that violence is no longer the right path to realize such an aspiration. Civilians, mostly innocent women and children, are primarily the ones that are victimized by senseless wars.