BASILAN – The Suara Bangsamoro Organization with the joint efforts of Health for Human Rights (HAHR) and Zamboanga Peninsula Health Education Program (ZPHEP) hold a medical and psychosocial mission in the municipality of Albarka, Basilan on October 13, this year.

In solidarity with the victims of the military operations in Basilan, the three (3) groups organized a medical and psychosocial mission for the residents of Albarka especially the women and children who suffered most after the July 10 ambuscades.

Dubbed as “Pagtyabangi ha Bulan sin Ramadhan” (Solidarity for the Month of Ramadhan), more than 500 patients suffering cough, flu, skin diseases and malnutrition queued for check-up and medication. Children undergoing trauma after witnessing and hearing sounds of guns and bombs was brought for a psychosocial therapy session in their community.

For several months, children were not able to go back to school. Almost 400 students studying in Guinanta-Magcawa Elementary School stopped schooling for fear of continuing military reprisal.

The village of Guinanta is where the encounter between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Marine Landing Team Battalion-9 took place on July 10.

The Suara Bangsamoro, HAHR and ZPHEP also held a short program at the Guinanta-Magcawa Elementary School and members from the Liga ng Kabataang Moro (LKM) and Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) gave cultural presentations.

Children were so happy when they were given crayons, pencils, papers and colored clay to play with. “The school supplies remind them of school,” said Fatima Manuel of HAHR.

Christians also participated in the mission to show solidarity with the victims of the conflict in Basilan. Messages from different human rights, health and Moro organizations were read, after which the local leaders of the community responded through their speeches.

As a recall, Department of National Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro says military offensives will continue despite the observance of Ramadhan. For the whole month of Ramadhan (September 13 – October 13), Muslims around the world fast as one of the five basic pillars of Islam.

A week before the start of the fasting, Teodoro and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Hermogenes Esperon announced that Ramadhan will not hinder military operations in Basilan and Sulu. This callous announcement reeking with Islamophobia led to the displacement of civilians in Baguindan, Tipo-Tipo and Langil Island in Basilan.
The observance of Ramadhan of some Muslims in conflict areas in Mindanao have been disturbed by the continuing military operations and ‘test missions’ conducted by the AFP purportedly against terrorist groups.

This has added to more than 24,000 evacuees in Sulu and Basilan caused by the hot pursuit operations against those who suspected of beheading ten elements of the Philippine Marines on July 10.

The evacuees in Basilan fled to their relatives in Tipo-Tipo and Albarka municipalities and have not returned to their communities since then. Some tried to go back to harvest their crops but ended up wounded by mortar fire. One of the victims is the mother of a ten-month old baby Sarah Lumandong.

Evacuees are cramped in the houses of their relatives; some were able to receive relief services from government agencies. But not all victims in the conflict area have come forward to be identified as evacuees in fear of military retaliation.

After the overnight stay of the Philippine Marines, the school in barangay Magcawa in Albarka is now abandoned with broken tables, chairs and windowpanes. Only cows stay in the school premise as of press time.

Amirah Ali Lidasan, national president of Suara Bangsamoro, urged the Philippine troops to stop firing and respect the rights of Muslims especially during observance of their traditions.#