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Humanitarian ceasefire in effect in Marawi City until 12 noon

A four-hour humanitarian truce is in effect in war-torn Marawi City to free hundreds of civilians still being trapped in armed confrontations between government forces and ISIS-inspired Maute jihadists.

A report on dzBB radio on Sunday morning said that the four-hour truce started at 8 a.m. and will end at 12 noon.

Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson for the Provincial Crisis Management Committee, said that the ceasefire deal is a result of the joint efforts of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), and other humanitarian groups.

“Nag-start ito around, ngayong 8 a.m. and mag-e-end yan ng alas dose ng tanghali. Ang MILF po ang ating partner sa ceasefire na ito, ang MILF saka ang gobyerno,” Adiong said.

The ceasefire, he said, was the result of the go-signal of President Rodrigo Duterte for the establishment of a peace corridor in Marawi City, following his meeting with MILF chair Murad Ibarim in Malacañang. 

“Itong effort na ito is the combined effort between the MILF and the government. Ito ay part ng sinasabi nating peace corridor para at least maka-support sila at makatulong sa nangyayaring crisis sa Marawi City,” he said.

He added the MILF-OPAPP contingent is now in Marawi City to rescue at least 2,000 residents trapped in the ongoing firefight between government security forces and the Maute Group that started last May 23.

Adiong mentioned that Maguindanao Gov. Toto Mangudadatu also sent a contingent team to help in the rescue efforts.

Adiong said it is not yet clear which group or individual directly communicated with the Maute Group, saying the terrorists only agreed that "neutral colors" with no firearms are allowed to extricate civilians.

"Dapat walang armas. ['Yan] ang request nila at napag-usapan with OPAPP. I think it's also rational na within the vicinity, ang AFP dapat wala silang participation during the four-hour ceasefire," he said.

"In the case of the local government unit, hindi pa kami makapasok dito dahil hindi pa ito cleared na area. It's not yet accessible to the LGUs for humanitarian operations kasi hostile area ito according to the Armed Forces. It's a welcome development kasi pinaka-concern talaga ng LGU is the safety of the civilians," he added.

Adiong said the MILF and OPAPP have identified specific areas where they will concentrate their rescue operations during their meeting on Saturday evening.

Meanwhile, Adiong assured the safety of the contingent, saying the rescue teams would be immediately pulled out of the area in case any untoward incidents happen.

"Aatras ang pwersa, hindi rin kasi puwedeng malagay sa panganib ang ating contingent mula sa OPAPP at saka MILF. Definitely ipu-pullout sila 'pag nagkaroon ng untoward incident at saka yung mga rescue teams hindi sila puwedeng lumapit sa area kung saan nagkakaroon ng putukan," Adiong said.

He likewise made assurances that the Maute Group will not use the humanitarian operations as an opportunity to escape since all rescued residents will be brought to the Marawi City Hall where they will be processed.

"Itong civilians na ating iwe-welcome, merong holding area diyan na na-set up ang GRP at MILF. Nandiyan din po ang LGU, kumabaga lahat ng involved na organization ay nandiyan to make sure na hindi 'yan magagamit na escape opportunity ng Maute group. All possible scenarios that would happen is fully covered," Adiong said.

But the truce declaration so far only came from the side of the military, and as the clock continued to tick away to 12 noon, it was not yet clear which group would negotiate with the camp of the Maute jihadists holding strategic positions and using civilians as human shields. —Joseph Tristan Roxas/LBG, GMA News