ILIGAN CITY, Philippines (Updated as of 11:30 pm)— The sultanates and Imams of Marawi City and the nearby towns in Lanao del Sur are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to declare a ceasefire in the embattled city that is continuously being ravaged by the ongoing fighting between the government forces and Islamic radicals.
“If you will not listen to us, wala na kaming babalikan (we will have nothing more to return to),” the leaders’ petition addressed to Duterte reads.
During the press conference on Thursday, June 15, sultans (royalty) and imams (priests) held placards bearing their calls to stop the airstrikes, save the civilians and properties, and to listen to the internally displaced persons.
In their signed petition dated June 15, 2017, the Maranao traditional leaders said if the crisis will not be addressed through negotiations, more civilian lives and properties will be destroyed.
“We urge the Duterte administration to resolve the crisis in a civilized manner through dialogue and peaceful approach. Our people has tremendously affected their socio-economic and religious activities for the past three weeks,” the leaders’ petition reads.
The leaders believed that as respected heads of their communities, they can influence the local terrorists through a dialogue. They said conflicts among the Muslims can be resolved using “traditional negotiations.”
“These radical people in some way, respect the elders of a clan,” they said.
Marawi Sultan Hamidullah Atar told reporters during a press conference that during the early part of the conflict, the traditional leaders would have talked to the family members of those involved during the attack of the Isis-linked radical groups in Marawi.
“It so happened that we were not given the chance to access the members of the family who are more stronger than them,” Atar said.
Atar explained that Maranaos in nature are “homogenous.”
“All of us are relatives. And we are not given the chance to linked these relatives and convey the message to negotiate for a peaceful approach,” he said.
Third party facilitator
Atar explained that the third party facilitators would be lead by imams and traditional leaders and not from the government.
“Other sectors who will possibly be influential to these groups will also be included, he added.
“The government will not negotiate but they should give a chance to other non-state actors to negotiate with these people,” he said.
The leaders said they are not condoning the act of the Maute group and other allies who were inspired by Islamic militants, however, they still plead to the government to resolve the crisis without incurring any more collateral damage.
“Definitely they are terrorists on the side of the government, but at the end of the day it is us civilians who bear the damages,” he said.
‘War is not an option’
Former board member and assemblyman of Lanao del Sur, 92-year old Sheikh Haron Ali Tomawis of Marantao town in Lanao del Sur spoke in Maranao and asked Duterte to “open his heart, listen to the people and be open for negotiation.
Antar who translated Tomawis’ message said: “he is appealing to the President for temporary ceasefire considering tha this month is the holy month (of Ramadan).”
“According to him in all the conflicts war is not an option, there is always a venue for negotiation for us to resolve the Marawi crisis peacefully,” he said.
The Sultanate Leaders of Lanao and the Imams League said continuing the war against the Maute group and other local terrorists organizations now in Marawi will only bring more destruction to the lives of the civilians. They also said “continuous fighting and bombardment may even multiply the forces of the so-called Maute group instead of crashing them.”
The leaders also lamented that the fighting has affected them “emotionally and psychologically.”
“War is not an option. We pray that the crisis will end without much collateral damage and we can return to our beloved city before the end of this holy month,” they said.
Atar also said they were expecting that the crisis would end on June 12 as promised by government officials.
The fighting in Marawi has dragged on to its 24th day, Thursday following the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao last May 23. (davaotoday.com)Bangsamoro, duterte, Marawi, Marawi Crisis, Marawi evacuees, moro, philippines