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6 rescued during brief truce – Palace

A soldier holds a child rescued from the battle zone in Marawi City on Sunday. AFP  

MANILA, Philippines - Six people, including a 79-year-old civilian, were rescued during the eight-hour humanitarian pause to commemorate Eid’l Fitr or the end of the holy month of Ramadan in Marawi City last Sunday, Malacañang said.

The military implemented the ceasefire from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. to allow Muslims to observe the Eid holiday. Officials said the pause in offensives was meant to express solidarity with Muslims.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the humanitarian pause was generally peaceful.

“As a result, six civilians and the body of a civilian victim killed by the Maute group were recovered from inside Marawi. First rescued was a senior citizen, 79 years old. Next were five other civilians,” Abella said in a statement yesterday.

As of Sunday, 1,702 civilians have been rescued from the battle zone. A total of 290 terrorists, 70 government troopers and 27 civilians have been killed since the Maute militants overran Marawi City last May 23.

Abella said four villages in the battle ravaged city remain “problematic areas.”

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“Enemy resistance continues to wane and enemy held areas continue to diminish as government security forces press their advance,” the presidential spokesman said.

“Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy held positions as evidenced by the recovery of bodies of terrorists and their firearms, computers and peripherals, as well as communications equipment and accessories,” he added.

Abella said the terrorists’ use of snipers, improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades from remaining vantage positions continue to pose a challenge to security forces.

He said terrorists also hide in mosques and use non-combatant civilians as shields to evade pursuing government forces.

Eid’l Fitr brought at least eight hours of peace in war-torn Marawi City last Sunday as military forces temporary halted operations against the Maute terrorist group.

President Duterte will lead the Eid celebration in Malacañang today, ending his six-day hiatus.

Duterte invited Muslim leaders to the event, which would also be an opportunity to discuss the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the measure that aims to implement the 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Earlier this month, Duterte said he would hold frank discussions with the MILF on the provisions of the draft BBL at Ramadan’s end.

“The BBL has been completed. And the (MILF) will give it to me, I will sign it during the Eid,” Duterte told reporters in Cagayan de Oro City last June 20.

“If I find things in order, I will sign it. And wait for the document, the formal one and I’ll send it to Congress,” he added.

The Aquino administration pushed for the passage of the BBL but it was stalled by questions about its constitutionality and the outcry over the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that left 44 police commandos dead in 2015.

The Eid’l Fitr will be Duterte’s first public event since taking a break last June 20. He was last seen in Cagayan de Oro, where he visited wounded soldiers at the Camp Evangelista station hospital.

Duterte also spent private time from June 12 to 16, creating suspicions that he was sick. The President claimed that he just took a rest and went on a secret trip in Mindanao.

The President said his health condition was “immaterial” because the Constitution has a mechanism for succession in case he is no longer capable of performing his duties – Vice President Leni Robredo is there to replace him.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the humanitarian pause declared in Marawi during Eid’l Fitr gave Muslim Filipinos the chance to go out and pray without fear of being caught in the crossfire.

He said the eight-hour window from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. “held and provided the much needed air of solemnity in the commemoration of the Eid.”

“Up to around 11 this morning, no discernible exchange of fire was heard in the observation area of the Joint Task Force Marawi team that was closely monitoring the humanitarian pause,” Padilla said.

“May the spirit of peace, joy, harmony and solidarity of Eid’l Fitr be with us all as brothers, sisters and children of the most merciful, the most beneficient, the most generous Allah,” said Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) commander Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr.

“In these trying times over Marawi, let us embrace the goodness of humanity with much faith that the will of God will always prevail,” he said in a statement.

The AFP declared an eight-hour pause in military operations against the Maute group in Marawi City to show respect for Eid’l Fitr.

More troops to Marawi

Some 241 policemen were deployed to augment government troops in Marawi City yesterday morning.

“The mission will not be easy, but it is not impossible. We should be ready anytime our services are needed anywhere in the country,” Chief Supt. Mao Aplasca, regional director for Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon command, said in the sendoff ceremonies yesterday held at Camp Vicente Lim in Calamba.

Aplasca said the policemen would conduct law enforcement operations, including the setting up of checkpoints and increase police visibility in Marawi.

“These are not scalawag police officers who have pending administrative cases. They are all well-trained and equipped from battlefield and combat operations,” Supt. Chitadel Gaoiran, spokesperson for Calabarzon police, said.

She said the troops would return to their mother units once the situation in Marawi normalizes.

Christians and Muslims exchanged roses to symbolize peace during the celebration of ‪ Eid’l Fitr in Iligan City.

The mood was festive, as more than 180 families who have been living in the evacuation center for a month commemorated Eid at the campus of the Iligan City National School of Fisheries. The school was turned into an evacuation center for civilians who fled the fighting in Marawi.

Muslim women broke down in tears, as their Christian counterparts embraced and handed them flowers, symbolizing love and the joyous and conciliatory atmosphere at the center.

In her remarks during a brief program at the site, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Diosita Andot cited the importance of the celebrations in light of the ongoing crisis in Marawi.

Speaking on behalf of Secretary Jesus Dureza, she said the event was an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to show their solidarity.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Manila hosted two simultaneous iftar meals as Muslim communities strengthened their resolve in solidarity with victims of the Marawi siege.

The embassy partnered with the University of the Philippines Institute of Islamic Studies (IIS) to host two simultaneous iftars last Wednesday – one at IIS in Quezon City and one at the Santa Elena Evacuation Center in Iligan City serving 1,140 Marawi evacuees. With Michael Punongbayan, Pia Lee-Brago, Ed Amoroso

 

 

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