De Lima calls for probe on the plight of IDPs in Mindanao

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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has asked the Senate leadership to look into the status of individuals and families who were displaced by the violent skirmishes between the government troops and the Muslim extremist group in Mindanao.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 798 directing the appropriate Senate committee to inquire into the plight of individuals and families caught in between the armed conflict with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“As an outcome of this general violence from the tensions between the military and the group identified as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, many of our fellow Filipinos are currently in the throes of massive displacement,” she said.

Based on official figures, about 5,136 families – or 23,465 individuals -from different municipalities of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur have been adversely affected by the ongoing military operations against the BIFF group.

As early as June 17, government troops have been running after groups allegedly led by a certain Muslim leader Abu Dar who is widely believed to be rebuilding a group from residual forces which caused the conflict in Marawi.

The former justice secretary pointed out that the Senate should find out how these Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) are coping up with their predicament, notably on the issues of security, access to food, shelter and education and livelihood.

“There is a need to determine the extent of our compliance with our international obligations on protecting the IDPs in our country,” she said.

“There is also need to examine our policies and mechanisms to see if they are able to provide practical, rights-based, and sustainable solutions to these recurring concerns in emergency and conflict situations,” she added.

De Lima, a known human rights advocate, also expressed her deep concern over the vulnerability of women-IDPs to gender-based violence in areas with armed conflicts.

According to her, any inaction on the part of the present government, especially for the most vulnerable sector in conflict areas, is unacceptable in clear non-compliance with the country’s obligations and commitments to international treaties.

“There is need to ensure that the people, whom our international obligations and Constitution seek to protect, are given all possible assistance and protection by our government,” she said.

In July 2017, De Lima has also filed Senate Resolution No. 420 urging the Senate leadership to look into the plight of IDPs within and outside the evacuation areas in Marawi City and other parts of Mindanao due to military pursuit of the Maute group.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noted in its report issued last April 16, that about 59,495 out of 77,170 families – or 353,921 individuals -affected by the Marawi siege have remained displaced as of March 6, 2018.

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