PHILIPPINES: Thousands of villagers displaced due to renewed fighting in Maguindanao, Mindanao 


Urgent Appeal Case: UA-216-2006
ISSUES: Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living,

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes to inform you regarding fears of a possible escalation in violence as a result of ongoing fighting in the province of Maguindanao, Mindanao. At 9pm on June 28, around one hundred armed militias attacked a rebel claimed area in Sitio Lab, Barangay (village) Meta in Shariff Aguak. The fighting has already spilled over to neighbouring areas and displaced thousands of villagers. The assault took place following a June 24 bombing that killed five aides of a local politician, including one of his relatives.  The bombing was also reportedly blamed on the rebels.

On July 3, a reliable source confirmed that at least 4,134 village families from three municipalities were forced to leave their houses for fear of getting caught in crossfire. These include the municipalities of Shariff Aguak and Mamasapano. Two other evacuation centers have just been designated in the municipalities of Dapiawan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, all in Maguindanao. The evacuees there have yet to be accounted for. While some displaced villagers took refuge in evacuation centers, others opted to stay with their relatives.

In an assessment made by the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), a non-governmental organisation monitoring the peace process in Mindanao, there are concerns the fighting could escalate into a full-blown war. Not only does the fighting affect civilians, there are fears that it will cause setbacks to the ongoing peace process between the government and the rebel group–Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Three of the rebel’s guerilla front, have since been engaged in fighting with government armed militias–the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (Cafgus) and Civilian Volunteers Organisation (CVO)—with military reinforcements. Armed militias involved in the fighting have already risen to over three hundred.

Thousands of civilians, who include women, children and elderly, have already fled their farmlands for safer ground. Fighting is ongoing and a number of displaced villagers is increasing. There are now difficulties in delivering relief aid to the affected people and to the remote villages. Even government agencies were prevented from getting near the affected communities. Some of the affected villagers were reportedly trapped in the conflict areas. Five of the nine barangays (villages) were also partly flooded due to the heavy downpour over the past few days.

While there is intention to reach out and extend relief and food aid, villagers remain trapped in some areas and troops can not assure the safety of relief workers who intend to enter the communities. Not even the Joint MILF and Government Ceasefire Committee and the International Monitoring Team are able to penetrate the area. Based on evaluations by non-governmental organisations, the possibility of an outbreak of diseases in the evacuation centers is imminent due to poor conditions.


The protracted fighting in the municipality of Maguindanao, Mindanao has already caused the death of civilians who are usually caught in a cross-fire.   Diseases and hunger related illness also contributes to the loss of life. The concerned government agency response to this, in particular the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), are often completely inadequate. They are unprepared to deal with this kind of situation in order to ensure the welfare of the evacuees. There is a lack of relief and there are food shortages. There is also no mechanism for the victims of the fighting to seek redress and remedy.

For example, in July 2005, desperate villagers in Barangay (village) Ahan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao refused to vacate and opted to stay in their villages despite on-going fighting in the area. They were concerned that they would not have food to eat should they stay in evacuation centers. At the time, the displaced villagers’ were trying to salvage food crops that were damaged due to fighting. Most of the villagers were unable to harvest their food crops after abandoning them. (Please see our previous appeal: HU-06-2005)

A month later, on 28 August 2005, three children, namely Nurhuda Kaling (1), Babaykan Kasan and another child, died of hunger-related disease in an evacuation center in Guindulungan. All of them were reported to have died from diarrhea. It was reportedly caused by lack of nutritious food and potable water supply. The children did not receive adequate medical attention at the time they fell ill. (Please see our previous appeals: HU-06-2005)

On 2 July 2006, at least 17 local organisations and peace advocates in Mindanao wrote a joint statement asking for presidential intercession to halt the fighting. They also requested the disengagement of the government’s armed militias and soldiers. They called on the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to look into reports these armed militias, who are supposed to be prohibited from engaging in armed conflict, have already been engaging themselves in assault and offensives against the rebels.

Please write letters to the concerned agencies below requesting for their appropriate action to ensure the safety and welfare of the affected villagers and evacuees. The authorities must ensure that basic needs, to include food, medicines and medical assistance, are provided to them adequately. The authorities must intervene without delay to prevent the fighting from escalating further. An inquiry must also be conducted into reports that armed militias have already been illegally used in fighting with the rebels. Those responsible of using the militias in attacking the rebel position must be held accountable.

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Dear _________,

PHILIPPINES: Thousands of villagers displaced due to renewed fighting in Maguindanao, Mindanao

Number of victims: at least 4,134 families of evacuees.
Place of incident: In the municipalities of Shariff Aguak, Mamasapano, Dapiawan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan, all in Maguindanao province.
Date of incident: 28 June 2006 to present
Back ground of the incident: Armed militias reinforced by military men attack a rebel claimed area following a bombing incident on June 24 that killed five people, including a relative of a local politician. The bombing was reportedly blamed on the rebels.

I am writing to draw your attention to the plight of displaced villagers as a result of the ongoing fighting in Maguindanao, Mindanao. I am aware that as of July 3, at least 4,134 families of evacuees have already been displaced in the area. Two evacuation centers have just been designated in two other municipalities–Dapiawan and Datu Saudi Ampatuan–whose number of evacuees is yet to be accounted for. The evacuees are now either sheltered in designated evacuation centers or with their relatives.

I have learned that the fighting broke out following an attack by armed militias and military troops to a rebel position in Sitio Lab, Barangay (village) Meta in Shariff Aguak on June 28. The fighting, however, has since spilled over to the neighbouring municipalities and villages. Given the present situation, there are fears it could escalate into a full-blown war if no immediate actions are taken by authorities to prevent it. I am disturbed by this renewed fighting and massive displacement of villagers in the area.

I am deeply concerned as this is yet another incident of displacement. I am aware that in July 2005, hundreds of villagers also vacated their houses when fighting broke out in Guindulungan, also a municipality of Maguindanao. At the time, three children were reported to have died in evacuation centers due to hunger-related diseases. Some of the affected villagers in the area also refused to vacate their houses. They are concerned that the food aid and relief assistance in evacuation centers is not sufficient and could not support their family.

I therefore urged your intervention to ensure that the safety and welfare of affected villagers and evacuees. Senseless deaths of civilians as a result of the ongoing fighting must be prevented. Basic needs of evacuees and those staying with their relatives, in particular food, medicines and medical services, must be sufficient until the situation requires. Adequate monitoring of the health status must be regularly conducted to prevent an outbreak of diseases. The government must exhaust all means to ensure the safe return and safety of affected villagers the soonest time possible. It must also take effective steps to prevent the fighting from spilling over into further escalation.

I also urge you to conduct an inquiry regarding the engagement of armed militias in attacking rebel-claimed area and positions. I am aware that armed militias, to include the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) and Civilian Volunteers Organisation (CVO), had neither no mandate nor permission to engage in an armed conflict. I am deeply concerned they have already been involved given this situation. An inquiry must be conducted to hold accountable those responsible for using these militias in assaults. They must be disarmed and ordered to disengage if their role is at all illegal. The use of armed militias must not be tolerated, as this leads to abuse and violations.

Finally, I urge you to ensure that peaceful means are used to resolve this fighting to prevent any more senseless deaths and the further suffering of villagers and evacuees. It should be the government who should take appropriate steps to exert all efforts in the field to meet this objective. Should there be violations committed by both parties during the fighting, it should be investigated and taken to the notice of agencies for their appropriate actions. Victims of violations must be afforded venues where they can seek redress and remedy.

I trust that you will take action in this case.

Yours sincerely,



1. Ms. 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

2. Mrs. Esperanza I. Cabral
Department of Social Welfare and Development
3/F DSWD Building, Batasang Pambansa Complex,
Constitution Hills
Quezon City
Tel: +63 2 931-7916 / 931-8068
Fax: +63 2 931 8191

3. Mr. Avelino J. Cruz, Jr.
Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue
Quezon City
Tel: +63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax: +63(2) 911 6213

4. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
Fax: +63 2 736 1010

5. Mr. Ronaldo V. Puno
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City
Voice: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
Fax: +63 2 925 0332

6. Mr. Jesus G. Dureza
Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP)
7/F Agustin Building I, Emerald Avenue
Ortigas Complex,
Pasig City, Metro Manila

7. Ms. Rosalinda Tolosa
Regional Director
Commission on Human Rights (CHR)
Sy Compound, Leon Lldio Street
Barangay Lagao
9500 General Santos City
Tel/Fax: +63 83 553-8887
Cotabato City extension Office
Tel: +63 64 482-0384 / +63 64 421-6307

8. Gen. Generoso Senga
Chief of Staff
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
AFP-GHQ Offices, Camp Gen Emilio Aguinaldo
Quezon City

9. Mr. Jean Zeigler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
1211 Geneva 10,
Tel: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 9179010 10. Ms. Yakin Erturk
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women
Attn: Ms Vernonica Birga
Room 3-042
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9615
Email: /

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission ( )

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA-216-2006
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Land rights, Poverty & adequate standard of living,