(Kalsema Saban, 80 years old from Barangay Tina, Shariff Saydona is among the more than 700 families who are victims of the on-going armed conflict in the SPMS BOX area of Maguindanao.)

For the nth time, Kalsema Saban, 80 years old woman of Brgy. Tina, Shariff Saydona evacuated to Barangay East Libutan, Shariff Saydona. She is among the more than 700 families who are victims of the ongoing armed conflict in the SPMS BOX area of Maguindanao (“SPMS box” refers to the adjoining towns of Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Shariff Saydona). In 2018-2019 alone, Kalsema Saban had evacuated 4 times. And every time the family is displaced, they would return to their homes to find their possessions destroyed by unknown elements of the parties to the conflict.

It can be recalled that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters broke away from the main Moro Islamic Liberation Front because of the failed MOA-AD in 2008. The then founder Ustadz Ombra Kato strongly reacted to the decision of the Supreme Court to disregard the recommendations of the MOA-AD. Since then, the BIFF has broken into 3 splintered groups, with one group being tagged as having links with the external ISIS.

The recent military operation was triggered by reports of sightings of BIFF groups amassing in the inland barangays of Pusao, Pamalian Diatem Bialong, Malinaw and Pikeg of the municipality of Shariff Saydona Mustapha. There were also reports of bombings of military installations. At 4:00 am of November 28, this recent military operation begun, employing airpower, shelling and ground troops assault to suspected positions of the BIFF.

However, because of the standing post Comprehensive Agreement of Bangsamoro/Framework Agreement of Bangsamoro, the military coordinated with the MILF to withdraw from the areas, prior to their operation. The current military push started last November 28, 2019.

As a result, the affected Local Government Units and their DRRMCs as well as the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society Civilian Protection Monitors reported that once again, like the family of Kalsema Saban, displaced families sought shelter in evacuation centers and houses of friends in Datu Sangki; Shariff Aguak; and in Libutan, Mamasapano.

In Barangay Libutan of Mamasapano a total of 1,571 were reported to have sought sanctuary there.
Since the IDPs fled from their homes immediately upon notification, they were not prepared for a prolonged stay in their current evacuation centers. IDPs immediate needs are:
• Food (Rice, canned goods, coffee, sugar)
• Hygiene Kits
• Trapal (Tarpaulin)
• Basic medicines

The Internally Displaced People of Mamasapano / Shariff Aguak hoped that kindhearted people would consider helping them in their times of need. But foremost question for them is: Who will give them protection?

Indeed, pocket “wars” like the one that is raging in Mamasapano and nearby areas continue despite the inked Peace Agreement between the MILF and the Government of the Philippines and the installation of the BTA and the BARMM.

Kalsema Saban echoed what IDPs like her pray. “Galugat kami den sa mayaba a gatamanan. Ya name bu bangnin na mapasad den e niya ba gabedtimbaka” (We are tired of our situation being like this. Our only prayer is for this armed conflict to end.).