The Philippine military said it is carefully “studying” the possibility of bombing mosques in Marawi City as local terrorists Maute Group are using these places of worship to stage attacks on troops.
“There are provisions that may allow for us to take action against them… We are studying this carefully,” said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Restituto Padilla on June 5 during a chance interview with the media in Malacañang.
“I’m not saying we will bomb them, but we’re studying this carefully, because AFP chief Gen. Eduardo Año told us to avoid doing that as much as possible,” he added.
Padilla said that this tactic of sheltering in mosques and madrasas (educational institutions) as their base of attack is the major reason why 10 percent of Marawi City is still under the terrorist’s control.
He added that the Geneva Convention did make exceptions to restrictions in attacking places of worship, among which is if they are being used for violence.
“There are exceptions. Whether the armed combatants force themselves into a hospital or a place of worship, we can use violence [to drive them out],” Padilla said.
The AFP Standing Rules of Engagement said, “cultural, religious and historical landmarks, civilian population centers, public utilities and other non-military structures, shall be protected and shall not be attacked except when they are used for military purposes.”
The 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict also urged countries to refrain from “any act of hospitality directed against such property.”
Under Article 4 that cites the rules for the respect of cultural property, paragraph 1 states, “The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect cultural property situated within their own territory as well as within the territory of other High Contracting Parties by refraining from any use of the property and its immediate surroundings or of the appliances in use for its protection for purposes which are likely to expose it to destruction or damage in the event of armed conflict; and by refraining from any act of hostility, directed against such property.”
However, there is also a provision on when obligations under paragraph 1 may be waived.
“The obligations mentioned in paragraph 1 of the present Article may be waived only in cases where military necessity imperatively requires such a waiver,” it states.
Rappler reported that Hague Convention rules state that advanced warning must be given before the military can attack the property.
However, Facebook user Hannah Adjerol-Morados appealed to the government not to bomb the masjids (another name for mosque) in Marawi, adding that it will only will “breed more extremists.”
“No do not bomb the masjids, it will not solve the problem but eventually, it will breed more extremists. It will escalate the problem,” Morados said.
She added that bombing the places of worship will only give the terrorists reason to say that “they are right in staging this war!”
“The reason why MG are occupying the most sacred place is to provoke the government. If this will happen, then Maute is winning, why? Because they will use this to justify that Muslims have no place in the country and that they are right in staging this war!” she said.
Morados appealed to political analysts to advise Duterte not to do this move and instead to “to take care of the evacuees and let them feel the government is on their side. To win the war, first win the hearts of the victims (collateral damage).”
Based on her Facebook profile, Morados is an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Diliman.