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PRESS RELEASE : MILF, GOVERNMENT LIABLE TO INTERNATIONAL LAW OF WAR

Manila, Philippines—“Uphold the law of war and protect 500,000 civilians”—this is the call of rights organizations to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and government as hostilities between the two continue to escalate in Mindanao.

At a press conference held yesterday, international charity Oxfam, the Civil Society Initiatives for International Humanitarian Law (CSI-IHL) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) appealed to the MILF and government to observe international humanitarian law or IHL, also known as the law of war, a set of rules which limit the effects of armed conflict on civilian lives and properties.

IHL demands that the MILF and government make a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. It requires the two warring parties to spare civilians and minimize damage to properties and to allow the safe passage of humanitarian assistance to conflict-struck areas. Humanitarian organizations have recently reported difficulty in reaching evacuation centers.


On August 10, 2008, armed conflict broke out anew between government and MILF forces, following the Supreme Court order to stop the government from signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), which is a product of years of political negotiations between the two parties.

Data from the National Disaster Coordinating Council indicates that the fighting that started in some 15 villages in North Cotabato have since spread to over 66 municipalities in 11 provinces across Central Mindanao. As of 10 September, the NDCC reported 365,012 individuals in evacuation camps; others who were initially displaced have taken the risk of either returning to their livelihoods or moving into interior areas to stay with relatives. A total of 20,313 families or 100,642 individuals are staying in 128 formal evacuation centres while 54,279 families or 264,370 individuals are in informal or makeshift or house-based “evacuation sites”. Homes, schools, mosques and chapels have been burned.

IHL is enshrined as a principle in the Philippine Constitution. IHL was adopted in the framework of the 2001 ceasefire agreement between the Government and the MILF. It also protects combatants who are no longer taking part in hostilities, and forbids the use of weapons and or methods that cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering.

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