Mindanao groups vow to continue fight vs martial law
Groups opposed to martial law in Mindanao vowed to keep up the fight against the return of authoritarian rule as Congress voted for the extension by one-year of martial law in Mindanao.
“With the extension of martial law, we do not have a choice but to defend ourselves,” said Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson of the Moro group Suara Bangsamoro. “For the Bangsamoro in Mindanao, the extension of martial law will only worsen what we have already experienced in the last seven months when martial law was declared,” Aba said.
Suara has documented 87 extrajudicial killings and over a thousand people killed during the air strike by the military; 482 people facing “trumped up charges,” and 500,000 more people displaced.
Aba said martial law no longer has any basis now, when the President himself, had declared the “liberation of Marawi.”
“We urge citizens to persist in standing against a return to militarism and authoritarian rule in our country,” Mags Maglana, lead convenor of Konsyensya Dabaw, said in Davao City.
She said President Duterte’s move to extend martial rule in southern Philippines beyondDec. 31 does not satisfy the constitutional provision that it can only be declared when there is actual rebellion or invasion.
“We find it disquieting that the President consistently defers to the military on matters of martial law. While the security sector should provide information that can help government in making vital decisions, the ultimate decision-making should rest with civilian authority. Despite many reforms in the security sector, there are hawkish elements and agenda that need to be reined in,” Maglana said.
This developed as military officials in Zamboanga City insisted terror groups remained a threat, despite their claim to have killed over a thousand terrorists in Mindanao for this year alone, including top Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, tagged the Islamic State (IS) emir in Southeast Asia and the two Maute brothers who led the five-month siege that seized a section of Marawi.
Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command, said despite the fall of Hapilon, and the Maute brothers, the threat of the terror groups continued to exist, which calls for the extension of nartial law in Mindanao.
“The military killed a total of 1,312 reported terrorists, 995 of them identified with the Daesh-influenced Maute, ” Galvez said in a press briefing in Zamboanga City on Monday.
“This is the largest (number of terrorists killed),” Galvez said. “There is a significant headway in terms of degrading the joint capabilities of the terrorist groups.”
Hapilon was killed along with Omar Maute on October 15 in Marawi while Abdullah Maute was killed earlier in the five months of relentless fighting between the terror group and the government forces.
But the military said the troops are keeping tight watch and trying to address the possible reorganization of other extremist groups, especially in Central Mindanao.
Major General Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said they were not discounting the possibility of regrouping out of Marawi.
“Their effort is reorganization and recruitment,” he said. “We are keen on exerting effort rather than countering. We are focused on preventing further extremist efforts.”
Ryan Amper, spokesperson of the group Barug Katungod Mindanao, called the proposed extension an “unli(mited) martial law,” which only gave blanket authority to President Duterte to intensify attacks on the people.
“We fear a further rise in extrajudicial killings of community leaders and activists, which already registered 88 victims since martial law,” he said. “With 75 per cent of AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) combat troops deployed in Mindanao, who will be having sweeping powers to suppress human rights, unli ML also means unli EJKs, displacements, food blockades, disappearances which we have already seen in the past seven months,” Amper added. Frinston Lim, Julie Alipala, Divina Suson, Jigger Jerusalem