Rights groups oppose another martial law extension in Mindanao

Bobby Lagsa

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Rights groups oppose another martial law extension in Mindanao
Father Allan Khen Apus of Movement Against Tyranny says there has been 'a marked increased of of human rights violations' in Mindanao since martial law started there

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The Movement Against Tyranny-Northern Mindanao (MAT-NMR) said it is against the third extension of martial law in Mindanao and condoned the announcement of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Carlito Galvez Jr regarding this proposal.

The martial law currently in effect in Mindanao was supposed to lapse on December 31, after being in place for one year. President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress for a third extension . 

In a statement, MAT-NMR said that the martial law in Mindanao which started on May 24, 2017, at the onset of the Marawi siege has brought nothing but fear, human rights violations, and destruction in Mindanao, especially among farmers, indigenous peoples, and the Moro communities.

“It’s been 560 days since the government’s war in Marawi City and the declaration of martial law in the whole of Mindanao. Since then, there has been a marked increased of human rights violations across different sectors and regions in the island,” said Father Allan Khen Apus of MAT-NMR.

In Northern Mindanao, human rights organization Karapatan said it documented the following cases:

  • Fake and forced surrender of alleged New People’s Army rebels (16 incidents, 927 victims)
  • Mass and illegal arrests (16 incidents, 43 victims)
  • Trumped-up charges (10 incidents, 47 victims)

Apus said that Duterte sows fear using guns and bombs, and weaponizes the law to “legalize” massive arrest of those perceived to be his enemy. He added that extrajudicial killing (EJK) has been institutionalized.

Duterte recently said he will create a liquidation squad that will target perceived enemies of the state.

“After Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency, killings have become rampant as he openly advocates it. These cases will be among Duterte’s horrible legacies, which intensifies as his term goes by and abandoning his sweet promises of economic development for the poor and leaning towards lethal force,” Apus said.

Father Rolando Abejo of Iglesia Filipina Independiente said that majority of the victims belongs to peoples’ organizations who are carrying out campaigns to defend their rights to land and life against the intrusion of big and destructive businesses.

“Now, it is clear as broad daylight that martial law is neither about counterinsurgency nor about war against terrorism. Rather, it has been the State’s gatepass for further plunder of the resources in the Land of Promise at the expense of its people,” Abejo said.

The President once announced that he would want ancestral lands of the indigenous peoples to be opened to investors.

Ancestral lands are rich in natural resources, and indigenous peoples here called Lumad often find themselves front and center of conflict. Many Lumads have paid with their lives to protect their ancestral domain against intrusion of companies.

“While this administration pretends to be concerned with the armed rebellion, it deliberately does not take care of the root causes of the problem – the socioeconomic needs of the people,” Abejo said.

“Our farmers remain landless, the workers and employees are still struggling to get by with their overworked-underpaid situation. The youth and students are faced with education budget cut and lack of opportunities,” he added.

Abejo said that the urban poor remains homeless and unemployed, while the indigenous peoples are still diriven out of their land.

He assailed that under martial law, even the ranks of lawyers, church workers, and other human rights defenders are continually under attack.

“All the while, the people are faced by the highest recorded inflation rate and unabated price hike of basic commodities and services,” he added.

Abejo said that with all these blood spilled and lives displaced, Galvez still has the gall to propose the extension of martial law.

“We are dismayed but unsurprised with this recent pronouncement of the AFP. As we have always said, this administration is fast becoming a fascist regime that aims to put the nation under tyranny and dictatorship,” he said.

MAT-NMR and Karapatan recommended the following as it called for an end to human rights violations and justice for the victims of martial law in Mindanao:

  • A stop to the Duterte administration’s counterinsurgency program, Oplan Kapayapaan, as a state policy of peace and security, which have resulted to scores of human rights violations. 
  • The immediate lifting of martial law, which has led to the intensification of human rights abuses. 
  • Justice for the victims of human rights violations by jailing perpetrators, and the indemnification of victims.
  • The accountability of the Duterte government, who authored and implemented these violations against the people’s human rights. 

“We are challenging President Duterte and the AFP to face the people and address their real concerns. Do not be cowards who attack civilians behind the guise of protecting Mindanao,” Apus said. Rappler.com

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