PHILIPPINES: Displaced civilians in depressed and harsh situation as a result of continuous fighting in Jolo, Sulu 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is forwarding the mission report prepared by various peace groups in Mindanao, Philippines, urging the Government of Philippines to take immediate action for about 57,900 displaced people due to continuous fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Jolo, Sulu, Mindanao.

The report mentioned that at the height of the fighting in February, almost 15% of the total population in the area fled their homes fearing for their security. Some of them live in harsh conditions at evacuation centers, while others are staying with their relatives and friends. The report also revealed that many of those not staying at evacuation centers have not received any relief assistance. The ongoing fighting between the AFP and the MNLF was caused by the massacre of a civilian family in Maimbung, Sulu, which was previously reported by the AHRC. (See further: (UA-48-2005)

We call for your urgent intervention in this matter. Please send a letter to the Government of Philippines to provide protection, adequate relief and rehabilitation to those affected in Sulu, especially to those people do not have access aid due to lack of documentation by the government. Please also urge the government to declare a temporary suspension of military operations/offensive military actions in Sulu area and initiate a dialogue between the AFP and the MNLF for a peace settlement. We ask you to further request the government to conduct an independent investigation in the February 1 massacre by the AFP and take genuine steps to stop the grave human rights violations committed by the military in Mindanao area.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

March 30, 2005

There is a state of war in Sulu right now.  Fear and insecurity prevail despite efforts to bring back the situation to normalcy.  A collective insecurity persists despite renewed promises of rehabilitation of houses and construction of roads and bridges.  There is a raging cry for justice, peace and respect for human rights.

We came to Sulu to see for ourselves the real situation there. Following our three day (March 28-30, 2005) intensive study, investigation and dialogue with the actors in conflict including Ustadz Habier Malik, the 104 Brigade and the 3rd Marine Brigade of the Joint Task Force Comet, we outline below the highlights of our impressions, findings and recommendations:

The humanitarian crisis holds the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) up to 9,879 families or 57,900 persons as of March 24, 2005.  At the height of the fighting in February, almost 15% of the total population fled their homes and farms towards safer grounds enduring the harsh conditions of the evacuation centers while others stayed with relatives and friends.  From the above figure, DSWD revealed that at least 10,000 IDPs still remain unserved.  Furthermore, because of on-going military operations and difficulty in documentation, many of those who chose to stay with their relatives did not receive any relief assistance.  While there appears to be no reported casualties and deaths in the evacuation centers yet, the sheer number of people displaced presents to us the real casualties of war.

Triggering the armed conflict is the killing of four residents of Sitio Baunu Ice, Barangay Kapuk Punggul, Maimbung in the early morning of February 1, 2005. Tal Padiwan, his wife Nurshida, their son Aldasir, 14, and one Salip Faisal Salim, died from the shooting.  Almujayyal, 7, another son of Tal and Nurshida, was shot in the hand.  Two of the three
other Padiwan children, aged 10 and 3, were also inside the house during the shooting.  Two soldiers from the Charlie Company of the 53rd IB were also killed during the incident.   While there are various versions on what actually transpired in that fateful morning, we are gravely disturbed that civilians, especially a pregnant woman and children have become casualties of the hostilities.  Unfortunately, witnesses to the
incident, including Almujayyal, had not been accessible to the peace mission for security reasons.

Considering the gravity of this case and its relationship to the conflict in Sulu, the mission sees the urgent need of an independent probe that would allow witnesses to surface and hold perpetrators accountable.

It is the general impression of the mission that there is a mishandling of the issue by the national government.  There is no categorical policy from OPAPP, AFP and Malacanang for that matter on how the MNLF-Misuari group should be handled.  As far as the Task Force Comet is concerned, there is no more distinction between the MNLF-Misuari group, Abu Sayaf, terrorists and lawless elements.  By so doing, the opportunity was lost to bring in the mainstream MNLF to a moderate approach via  the 1996 Peace Agreement.

The MNLF Misuari group still recognizes the 1996 Peace Agreement. Accordingly, they will only agree to talk and declare a ceasefire if the parties will take up the causes of the war, address the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement and speedy trial and justice for Chairman Nur Misuari.

The role of the local government units is considered critical in mediating the current conflict.  It is the military which controls decisions and policies regarding peace and order and security issues in the area.  The PNP which is supposed to be under the Mayors, report directly to the military.

From the foregoing, we propose the following recommendations:

1. For the government and the MNLF Misuari group to hold talks on the status and implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement on the Misuari issue and on the Sulu situation, the latter discussion to include the key leaders of the MNLF Misuari group in Sulu.  For the parties concerned to reactivate the tripartite (GRP-MNLF-OIC) mechanism, including the Joint Monitoring Committee.

2. For the government and the MNLF Misuari group to declare at least a temporary SOMO (suspension of military operations) or SOMA (suspension of offensive military actions) in Sulu.  For the parties, in their talks on the Sulu situation, to explore cooperation in the interdiction of the criminal elements;

3. For all concerned parties, including international humanitarian organizations, to ensure the effective protection, adequate relief, voluntary return, and sustainable rehabilitation of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sulu in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on  Internal Displacement (UNGPID).

4. Conduct of an independent and competent investigation of the February 1 incident which sparked the February hostilities in Sulu, including the consolidation of all existing and available fact-finding reports, testimonies and evidentiary material.

5. Undertake corrective and preventive action on human rights violations, including whatever possible action on recently documented cases in Sulu.  Establish an office of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) in Sulu.  Reinforce the prosecutorial and judicial system in Sulu for the handling of human rights complaints and cases.

6. Promote and institutionalize education on human rights, United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (UNGPID), international humanitarian laws especially with the AFP, PNP, MNLF Misuari group in Sulu tapping for this purpose the CHR, ICRC, PNRC, national IHL committee and various human rights and humanitarian NGOs.

7. For the constitutional principle of the supremacy of civilian authority over the military to be adhered to both at the national level and in Sulu especially on questions of war and peace. Matters of the peace processes, the MNLF question and Sulu peace and development should not be mainly left in military hands or determined by military minds.

8. Achieve coherence, consistency and continuity in national policies on the peace process in general and on the Sulu situation in particular. Review the “Road Map for Sulu”, particularly as it relates to the MNLF problem.

9. Require the active presence of the town and barangay officials of Sulu for their effective action for peace and development including local conflict-resolution / mediation efforts and livelihood/ business initiatives.

10. Maximize civil society participation in Sulu peace and development efforts, especially in addressing the conflict between the government and the MNLF-Misuari group and in responding to the Provincial Executive/ Legislative Agenda to “Rebuild Sulu”.

Signed by:

(Bangsamoro Women Solidarity Forum; Concerned Citizens of Sulu; Sulu Civil Society Assembly; Muslim Women Peace Advocates Council; Peace Advocates Zamboanga; Balay Rehabilitation Center; Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society; Gathering for Peace; Initiatives for International Dialogue; Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc.; Mindanao Peoples Caucus; Mindanao Solidarity Network; Saligan Mindanaw; The Asia Foundation; International Obervers from East Timor and South Korea; TACRDUP/MPAC)

Contact person:
Mary Ann Arnado
Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
No. 27 Galaxy Street, GSIS Heights, Matina
8000 Davao City
Phone: +63 82 299-2574-75
Fax: +63 82 299-2052

Please send a letter, fax or e-mail to the following government authorities and express your concern.


To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ________,

Re: PHILIPPINES: Displaced civilians in depressed and harsh situation as a result of continuous fighting in Jolo, Sulu

I am writing to express my serious concern on the depressing situation of civilians displaced by continuing fighting in Jolo, Sulu. 57, 900 persons have already been displaced. The fighting made it difficult for social and human rights workers to document other displaced families, and as a result 10% of the total number of evacuees, did not receive any relief assistance. The displaced villagers forced to settle themselves in evacuation centers despite harsh condition in order to survive.

As the fighting continues, incidents of human rights violations committed by either the AFP or MNLF against civilians have been reported. Civilians are becoming the biggest casualty. Their means of livelihood were lost, their houses and property damaged, they continue to suffer under harsh condition in congested evacuation centers. Some have not even received relief assistance from government.

I urge you to take immediate steps to address the suffering of these internally displaced persons. They are in condition that government assistance is urgently required. It must be ensured that all displaced persons should receive relief and assistance. Proper documentation on the situation of victims affected by conflict should be done to determine the assistance required. There should be no IDP’s left not served.

An independent body must be created to investigate human rights violations committed by AFP, in particular, the massacre of a civilian family in Maimbung, Sulu on 1 February 2005. Appropriate and immediate action against perpetrators involved in any violations, including previous abuses allegedly committed by AFP, which is believed to have caused the fighting, must be dealt with accordingly. They must be held responsible for their acts and for the violation of Protocol II of the Geneva Convention.

Further, I also urge both AFP and MNLF to consider suspending the military operations to ensure a peaceful resolution. The government and MNLF should give peaceful dialogue a chance and review the 1996 Peace Agreement which both parties have signed.

I look forward to your intervention on this matter.

Yours truly,



1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila, NCR 1005
Fax: +63 2929 3968

2. Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles
7 / F Agustin I Building, 
Emerald Avenue, Ortigas Center 
Pasig City
Tel: +63 2 636-0701 to 06 or 636-3801 to 06
Fax: +63 2 631-1614 or 635-4053

3. Mr. Purificacion Quisumbing
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman, Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 928-5655/926-6188
Fax: +63 2 929-0102

4. Gen. Efren L. Abu
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
AFP-GHQ Offices, Camp Gen Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City

5. Mr. Avelino J. Cruz Jr.
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Bldg.,
Camp Emilio Aguinaldo
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Fax: +63 2911 6213

6. Mr. Philip Alston 
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions 
Atten: Lydie Ventre 
Room 3-016, c/o OHCHR-UNOG
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9155
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 (general)

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : FA-11-2005
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,