Here's a distressing update to this story:
According to the latest reports today, August 18 PST, guerillas attacked towns in southern Philippines and killed more than a dozen people. The fighting continues as of this writing. Though older rebel leaders have been negotiating with the Philippine government for a ceasefire, reports say that younger rebel leaders have become impatient with the slow progress of the talks. The latest assault led to the burning of more than 20 houses while civilians scamper to seek shelter in evacuation centers. ================================================================
It's the same, sad story. In wars, it's the civilians who usually suffer the most.
After the smoke of the battle between government forces and Islamic separatists in the southern Philippines cleared, more than 160,000 refugees went home to a pile of rubble and ash.
The fighting between government troops and the rebels, which has killed more than two dozen soldiers and guerrillas, destroyed their villages.
"It’s been like this as far as I can remember, we build houses then fighting occurs, we leave and return home and build our houses again," Midsayap resident Rogelio said to Manny Mogato of Reuters. His house in North Cotabato province, about 560 miles south of Manila, was burned down, Reuters reports.
He is one of the refugees who had to flee from their homes and farmlands due to intense military airstrikes and mortar fire aimed at Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels holed up in the area.
In July, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government agreed to an accord that will establish a Muslim homeland in negotiations brokered by Malaysia. Rebels claimed the area as part of that deal. The Supreme Court stopped the formal signing of the accord after politicians and lawmakers opposed to the deal filed a petition, according to the L.A. Times.
Muslims in the south of the largely Catholic Philippines have been fighting for some measure of independence since the late 1960s.