Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard J. Gordon yesterday appealed for humanitarian consideration amid the continuing violence between military troops and the Moro National Liberation Front in Zamboanga City.
Gordon made the appeal as the number of civilians killed or wounded rises, calling on the combatants to abide by the International Humanitarian Law as much as possible.
“We are appealing for humanitarian consideration from both sides because we are concerned over the rising violence which could affect more non-combatants and civilians. The military should proceed with caution in attacking the suspected hideouts of the rebels to ensure that civilians will not be harmed,” the PRC head said.
“We appeal to all combatants to follow the principles of the International Humanitarian Law which says that civilians and humanitarian workers must not be harmed,” he added.
Reports said that as of Saturday, the death toll from hostilities between government troops and MNLF fighters was already at 53 and some 70 others were wounded, 20 of them civilians. So far, six government forces, 43 MNLF men and four civilians have been killed as the armed confrontation entered its sixth day.
Gordon said the Philippine Red Cross emergency unit stationed at the Zamboanga City Medical Center has not withdrawn despite Friday’s incident when an exploding shell believed fired from a rifle outside the hospital near one of the barangays where the MNLF forces were suspected to be holed up with the residents they have taken hostage left at least 11 staff and volunteers wounded.
“Our emergency unit is still there, ready to continue providing humanitarian assistance. However, the protocols should be applied to ensure that our volunteers will not be harmed and will not be deterred from doing their job of alleviating human suffering,” he said.
The PRC chairman stressed that the Red Cross volunteers work under the principles of neutrality and impartiality hence, they are to assist all wounded combatants.
“The Red Cross has a 150-year old tradition of neutrality and impartiality particularly during armed conflicts. We do not take sides. We give assistance to all the wounded from both sides,” he said.