Martial law in Negros? Military taking cue from local execs
MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines is mulling over whether to recommend the imposition of martial law on Negros Island following a spate of killings, even if the Philippine National Police already said it had peace and order there under control.
“For now we haven’t reached a consensus on that matter,” Brig. Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson, said at a news forum in San Juan City on Wednesday.
Arevalo said the military was looking at the developing situation in Negros, as well as the recommendations of local chief executives on the island.
Last week, 14 people were shot dead separately in Negros Oriental province. The victims included a lawyer, a city councilor, a former town mayor, a village chief and a 1-year-old boy.
The killings followed the July 18 attack by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on four police intelligence officers in Negros Oriental’s Ayungon town.
In a separate forum, also on Wednesday, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said he understood how the killings had prompted some Negros officials to ask for the imposition of martial law.
He said he received calls from three mayors who wanted martial law declared in Negros. “I said, please allow us to handle (the peace and order situation),” he told reporters at Kapihan sa Manila Bay.
Police Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, PNP spokesperson, on Wednesday said the situation in Negros Oriental “is under control and our police units there remain on full alert.”
Its police provincial director, Col. Raul Tacaca, had been relieved, Banac said, “to give way to an impartial probe on possible lapses by his administration in light of several high-profile killings in the province for the past several days.”
Police Gen. Oscar Albayalde, PNP chief, designated Col. Angelito Dumangeg, deputy director for operations for Central Visayas, to act as concurrent officer in charge of the post vacated by Tacaca.
Albayalde has blamed the NPA for the killings and has deployed 300 more Special Action Force troopers to the province.
Call for renewed talks
Church leaders on Wednesday, however, called for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the communist rebels instead of sending more troops to Negros.
“Military solution alone without addressing the daily violence being perpetuated by unjust and corrupt systems that sustain the glaring social inequality in our society will not end our present problem,” San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said in a statement.
Alminaza said the unrest on the island could be significantly reduced by implementing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser) that was to be signed during the peace talks.
Caser provides, among others, for the implementation of genuine agrarian reform.
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church or IFI) joined calls for justice for those killed and backed the resumption of the peace talks.
In a pastoral statement issued on July 27, IFI Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang said the killings were “gruesome and the attacks on human lives are horrendous.”
“These killings and attacks eloquently speak that the road to war is not the way to build a nation. And we blame the Duterte government for unleashing such a violent war,” Timbang said.
—With reports from Nestro P. Burgos Jr., Nestle Semilla and Carla P. Gomez
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