ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The government's chief peace negotiator appealed to residents of Zamboanga City on Monday, June 12, to support President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao but to remain vigilant of abuses at all times.
Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP), along with Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar, led the flag raising and wreath laying ceremony at Zamboanga City Hall during the city’s commemoration of the 119th anniversary of the declaration of Philippine independence.
“It is very important that we support martial law. Support it, but remain vigilant. Hindi p'wede 'yung may nakita kang pag-abuso tapos quiet ka na lang (It is not acceptable to stay silent when you witness abuses),” Dureza said.
President Duterte declared martial law in the whole of Mindanao on May 23 following the clash between government troops and local terrorist groups in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The following day, May 24, Duterte said he might expand martial law across the entire country if the threat of the terrorist Islamic State (ISIS) persists.
This is the first time since the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos that the country is celebrating Independence Day with a portion of it under martial law.
Zamboanga itself was besieged by Moro National Liberation Front fighters in 2013. (READ: Zamboanga siege: Tales from the combat zone)
On Monday, Dureza said that the martial law that is currently implemented is different from the one declared by Marcos, citing the parameters stated in the 1987 Constitution. “This (Martial Law) is actually to protect civilians,” he added.
This, however, contradicted an earlier statement made by Duterte when he said that the martial law in Mindanao will be no different from martial law during the time of Ferdinand Marcos.
During his talk, Dureza also honored the fallen soldiers in Marawi. He mentioned Lieutenant John Sabillano, who reported the recovery of about P53 million in cash, and was killed a few days later. (READ: Tearful flag-raising in Marawi as PH celebrates Independence Day)
He also shared the story of Private First Class Dhan Ryan Bayot, who asked his commander to bomb his location encircled by members of the Maute Group.
“These are simple acts of heroism that we must recall and remember," he said. (READ: #SalamatSaSerbisyo: Show your support for Marawi soldiers, cops) – Rappler.com
Jieven Santisteban is Rappler's lead mover in Zamboanga City