MANILA, Philippines – Lawyers in Lanao del Sur expressed their "severe outrage" over alleged martial law abuses in Marawi City, and demanded swift government response to what they called "unspeakable acts of bestiality."
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Lanao del Sur Chapter criticized the implementation of martial law in a June 9 statement addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año. It was signed by its president, Aminoden Macalandap, with the concurrence of its board.
IBP-Lanao del Sur said it was "utterly shocked...by the sheer magnitude" of the abuses allegedly committed against private individuals who had no connection to terrorists – the targets of the martial law declaration. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law declaration in Mindanao)
"The IBP-Lanao del Sur Chapter hereby expresses its severe outrage and condemnation over illegal searches and seizures in Marawi City by military men, police, and other law enforcement agencies which result in rampant loss and deprivation of properties and possessions of innocent civilians," they said.
They said the military and the police had committed "wanton disregard of sanctity of domicile, the right against deprivation of property without due process of law, the right to be secure in one's person, house, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures and the privacy of communication and correspondence of innocent civilians."
The lawyers said their claim was based on "first-hand data and information fresh from the battle field" they had gathered since the May 23 implementation of martial law, as part of their group's bid to protect human rights in their backyard.
The group, which had thrown its support for President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law declaration, said it monitored warrantless searches and unauthorized intrusions of residential and commercial establishments that had no links to the Maute Group.
Worse than Marcos' martial law
The lawyers also cited reports of "forcible entries" into homes and establishments,"total disregard of plain view doctrine in searches and seizures activities" and the "ransacking" of homes and establishments without authority.
"As a consequence of illegal searches and seizures, rampant loss of valuable personal belongings of innocent and helpless civilians has been reported. Residential and commercial establishments have been laid open to looters all over the besieged city," the group said.
The "military men" who committed these acts, the lawyers said, "exhibited no remorse," based on video and social media posts the group saw.
They described the "wholesale illegal searches and seizure" as "unparalleled in magnitude" and that similar operations done during "the Marcos years of martial rule pale in comparison."
To describe the supposed current situation in Marawi under martial rule, the group lifted from a statement of the IBP Board of Governors on November 25, 2009, in relation to the Maguindanao massacre: "It is an indictment of our government’s inability to enforce the law and maintain order."
"And yet, no one raises a voice of dissent. The deafening silence in the Congress, appropriate government agencies, and even the mainstream media on the matter is not only alarming but construed as an implied approval of unspeakable acts [of] bestiality," IBP-Lanao del Sur said.
The lawyers called on Lorenzana and Año, martial law administrator and implementer, respectively, to act quickly on the alleged abuses.
The defense department had earlier reminded soldiers to uphold the rule of law and established human rights norms in the implementation of martial law.
The lawyers also urged the creation of a "credible multi-agency investigation committee" to investigate the incidents.
IBP-Lanao del Sur wants an end to the warrantless searches and seizures, and the return of all illegally-seized properties.
The lawyers also called on all IBP chapters in the country and other sectors to support them "to ensure that the people’s bill of rights in Lanao del Sur and Marawi City enshrined in the Constitution is respected and honored, never suppressed, at all times even during the effectivity of martial law."
"If, in the remotest possibility, this urgent plea falls on deaf ears, the IBP-Lanao del Sur Chapter will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action," they said.
Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court seeking the nullification of Proclamation 216, and calling for a joint session of Congress on martial law. (READ: 3 groups take on gov't in SC oral arguments on martial law)