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PIA Press Release

Palace welcomes OIC appeal for ceasefire in South

Manila (18 April) -- Malacanang welcomed today the appeal of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) for a halt to renewed fighting between government forces and the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front, saying it has consistently worked with international allies and stakeholders for peace in the south.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye stressed however that the government couldn’t have a peace hostaged to the victims of lawless.

"The rule of law itself has come under threat and must be upheld by aggressive law enforcement operations with an eye on the safety and well-being of civilians who may be caught in the crossfire," he said in a statement.

Bunye was reacting to the appeal of Muslim countries worldwide to end a three-day battle that has killed 18 people and displaced thousands. The renewed fighting was triggered by an attack on a marine outpost by MNLF rebels led by renegade Commander Uztads Habier Malik that killed two soldiers and an innocent child.

Government troops retaliated by bombarding the base of Malik's men in Panamao, Jolo, killing 12 rebels.

"We acknowledge the call of the OIC for peace in Sulu and we have consistently worked with international allies and stakeholders toward this end," Bunye said.

He expressed belief that even the OIC would agree that any government will have to deal firmly with any and all depredations against the community such as that staged by the wayward armed group of Malik.

"We cannot have a peace hostage to the victims of the lawless," he said.

Bunye clarified that the ongoing battle in Sulu is a limited military action against a rogue commander who has even declared jihad or "holy war" against the government and the Filipino people.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had expressed confidence earlier that the Armed Forces will not allow peace and order to deteriorate in Mindanao.

About three battalions of soldiers from the Philippine Army and Marines have been sent to Panamao to ensure the peace of the civilians leaving in the area. (PIA) [top]

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