Muslim clerics ask Duterte to end air strikes in Marawi

May 30, 2017 - 7:03 AM
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An Air Force helicopter fires a rocket at the Maute group in Marawi City. (photo by Erik De Castro, Reuters)

MARAWI CITY — Muslim clerics on Monday appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to stop the air strikes in Marawi City and spare the lives of civilians and infrastructure.

The National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, in a statement released to media, said government forces conducting combat operations must press on with ground assaults instead of resorting to bombing sorties.

“We implore (Duterte) to cease immediately the air strike, but to employ only a ground attack by the military and police so that civilians will be protected and escorted to evacuation centers,” the Ulama said.

The group also called on national government agencies such as the Social Welfare and Health departments to respond to the humanitarian needs of Marawi residents who have fled from the fighting between government forces and the Maute terror group since May 23.

“This is the time, Mr. President, to show us what you’ve been saying, that you have a Maranao blood, and that … you are sincere to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moros,” the statement said.

Earlier, Roman Catholic bishops of Mindanao issued a statement, signed by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, condemning the “terroristic acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives.”

”In the strongest terms, we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace,” they said.

“Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility,” they added.

The prelates also urged calm and called on people to be “obedient to the just commands of lawful authority” and not provoke violent reaction.

In a separate statement, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front asked the government to ensure that the ceasefire mechanisms continue to work on the ground, and that any military operations against the group that perpetrated the violence in Marawi does not spark more fighting in other areas.

“Mobilizing the military in Mindanao should still respect the mechanisms that have proven to be effective in scaling down armed encounters between government forces and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces,” it said.

“Conversely, the recent events have shown that any disregard of these mechanisms have been disastrous to our communities and to the effort to bring fruition to the end the decades-long conflict in our homeland,” the statement said.