Suara Bangsamoro condemns the military offensives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the Moro National Liberation Front in Sulu. We support the appeal of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) to stop the military offensives and respect the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. We reiterate the OIC’s appeal for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government and the MNLF.

We condemn the series of military offensives against the MNLF in Sulu. The Tausugs in Sulu have had it with the military’s rehashed excuses that the offensives are about the pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf group, when in truth the MNLF camps are the ones being pounded with mortars and deployed with Filipino and US soldiers.

This year alone, three series of attacks in MNLF areas have left MNLF leaders and relatives dead. On January 18, Commander Qaddam and nine of his companions including an 11 year old kid were strafed with bullets while on their way to Jolo to report a military offensive in their area in Bonbon, Patikul.

On February 17, Salip Abujainal, 14 year old, Tausug, was shot by members of the Scout Rangers in Kasambahan Village while on their way home after watching a telenovela in a nearby village in Indanan municipality. Kasambahan village is a known village whose residents are related to MNLF Sulu State Revolutionary Chairman Khaid Adjibun.

Ten days after, the command post of Chairman Khaid Adjibun in Marang, Indanan was pounded with mortars. More than 500 individuals evacuated to the different baranggays in Indanan and in the maintown Jolo.

The people in Sulu cannot believe that the AFP still continue their military operations in MNLF areas despite of the declarations and assurances made by the MNLF that they are not coddling any Abu Sayyaf and Jeemayat Islamiya leaders in their areas. Military offensives continue despite of the ceasefire agreements the MNLF and the AFP has in Sulu.

We thought that the OIC visit last March would again open the doors for peace negotiations in Sulu. Assurances were made by the government that they will look into the complaints submitted by the MNLF against AFP violations of truce in Sulu. But the present military offensives again dampened our hopes.

Reports on the ground says that more than 50,000 have evacuatedand the offensives have affected residents in eight municipalities: Luuk, Panamao, Panglima Estino, Patikul, Kalinggalan Kaluang, Talipao, Indanan, Parang. We fear for the lives of those fleeing military operations and their lives once inside cramped makeshift evacuation centers with few medical and relief services.

We also fear that should the military offensives escalate, it will affect the coming elections in May 14. We fear that the war will also be used as a pretext for the COMELEC to declare the area as election hotspot.

Should Sulu be tagged as election hotspot, this would be very unfair for those candidate who are running in Sulu. This is only the time that the voters have heard no election-related violence between candidates, all candidates have been cordial to each other in their campaigns.

It would therefore be very unfair for some candidates, especially those not running under the administration ticket or very critical of the presence of Filipino and foreign troops in Sulu, should the canvassing of votes be done in military detachments and brigade as was done during the 2004 national elections.

Suara Bangsamoro calls on all peace-loving people and our Moro brothers to join us in our condemnation rally to be held on April 18, 2007 in front of the Department of National Defense. Let us join in our collective prayer and protest to the continuing military operations in Sulu and other parts of Moro areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

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