The faction of heavily armed fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that stormed Zamboanga city on Monday committed war crimes and serious violations in the International Humanitarian Laws (IHL), the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said on Tuesday.
Human rights chairman Loretta Ann Rosales in a statement condemned the actions of the armed faction under MNLF leader and founder Nur Misuari. She decried the group’s violent encounters with government forces that displaced thousands of residents in just two days.
Rosales said that the 300-strong armed group violated provisions in RA 9851 or “An Act Defining and Penalizing Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide and Other Crimes Against Humanity”.
“The rule of law is likewise blatantly disregarded with impunity in the acts of the MNLF,” Rosales said. “Not only have they taken hostages and taken arms against the government, they have also attempted to fly their own flag in the City Hall of Zamboanga.”
She said that the laws and customs during armed conflict under section 4 (c) of RA 9851 were seriously violated. She reiterated that law prohibits “intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.”
“While the Commission is in agreement with an all-inclusive peace process, it has to be stressed that the road to peace and progress in Mindanao can never be reached through lawlessness and violence,” Rosales explained.
The human rights chair said that Human Rights Laws were also violated in the standoff. She said that the shutdown of public and private establishments infringed on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the local residents.
“If the MNLF has its misgivings with the government with respect the ongoing peace process, it has to pursue its recourse with the national government and in the proper forum,” Rosales explained. “It cannot, as it is doing now, take its action against innocent civilians and residents of Zamboanga City.”
CHR reported that the number of evacuees passed the thousand mark Monday night. It said that with 174 families have been displaced, consisting of 1,099 individuals at the Tetuan Parish. Whereas 231 families with 1,071 individuals are at the Zamboanga Grandstand.
“The Commission on Human Rights, as the country’s national human rights institution, strongly condemns in no uncertain terms these barbaric acts of the MNLF in taking civilian hostages, including women and children, and in attacking Zamboanga City, causing the displacement of thousands of residents and the paralysis of the city,” Rosales said.
The human rights chair called on the MNLF to cease the standoff and release the civilian hostages. She also called on the MNLF leaders to return to the negotiating table and adopt peaceful means in attaining its political goals within the all-inclusive peace process.
Meanwhile, reports said that six hostages have been released by the in Barangay Talon-Talon around 8:30 am. Those released were said to be five children and one adult. Titus Edison Calauor