Groups fear nationwide imposition of martial law
An opposition coalition and a group of lawyers on Wednesday slammed the decision of Congress to grant a yearlong extension of martial law in Mindanao, warning that this was the Duterte administration’s attempt to cover up for the “festering corruption” in an “incompetent” government, as well as turn the country into a police state.
#TindigPilipinas and the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) also joined groups from Mindanao, including Konsyensya Dabaw and Suara Bangsamoro, in urging Filipinos to resist moves to return to authoritarian rule in the country, as they expected human rights violations to worsen on the island.
In separate statements, #TindigPilipinas and NUPL said the extension of martial law in Mindanao was laying the ground work for its imposition nationwide.
They said there was nothing on the ground and even in the Constitution that “justifies a request for an extension.”
The two groups also called on the people to resist attempts of the administration to impose a dictatorship.
“The democratic space left for us to breathe is getting smaller and smaller by the day and will suffocate all our rights before we realize it. Unless we refuse to just stand and watch idly by,” the NUPL said.
The NUPL doubted the veracity of the presentation of the executive department and the military to Congress, which convinced lawmakers that an extension of martial law was necessary.
“There is no actual and real—not threatened or predicted—rebellion in the entire Mindanao of such intensity and scope as to honestly satisfy the strict extraordinary constitutional powers,” it said.
The group said Mr. Duterte’s tagging of communist rebels as terrorists and demonizing progressive groups were “to lay expansive grounds not only for such extension of martial law in Mindanao but eventually to possibly put the whole country under effective military rule or institutionalized authoritarianism.”
For #TindigPilipinas, “the extension of martial law in Mindanao cannot be seen as anything but an admission of incompetence and a power grab by a murderous, corrupt and increasingly isolated regime.”
“The government attempts to show itself as competent and strong by bragging about its long-drawn and stumbling campaign to capture the Maute group but has left Marawi, its businesses, its homes and most especially its people and children in ruins and desperation,” it added.
Groups in Southern Tagalog, including Karapatan, staged a protest rally in Quezon City after Congress extended martial law in Mindanao.
In Mindanao, Jerome Succor Aba, spokesperson for the Moro group Suara Bangsamoro, said “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 his group had documented 87 extrajudicial killings and over a thousand people killed during air strikes by the military in Marawi, 482 people facing “trumped up charges,” and 500,000 more people who were displaced.
“With the extension of martial law, we do not have a choice but to defend ourselves,” he said.
Aba said martial law no longer had any basis to be declared 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.
In Zamboanga City, military officials insisted that terror groups remained a threat despite their claim to have killed over a thousand terrorists in Mindanao for the year alone.
Among those killed were top Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, tagged as the Islamic State (IS) emir in Southeast Asia, and the two Maute brothers who led the five-month siege that seized a section in Marawi.
Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr., commander of Western Mindanao Command, said despite the fall of Hapilon, and the IS-inspired Maute brothers who led the homegrown Maute Group, the threat of terror groups remained.
Maj. Gen. Arnel dela Vega, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said they were not discounting the possibility of IS-inspired groups regrouping outside Marawi.
Not the answer
Suara’s Aba said martial law was not the answer to the problem in Mindanao.
“We need to address the roots of armed conflict and issues like injustice, landlessness, national industrialization and the right to self-determination for Bangsamoro and lumad,” it said.
Ryan Amper, spokesperson for Barug Katungod Mindanao, said “unli” (unlimited) martial law “means unli extrajudicial killings, displacements, food blockades, disappearances which we have already seen in the past seven months.”
Fr. Rolando Abejo, spokesperson for the group Movement Against Tyranny in Northern Mindanao and regional chair of the group Promotion of Church People’s Response, said he expected cases of human rights violations to swell. —REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON IN MANILA, MARICAR CINCO IN LAGUNA, AND FRINSTON LIM, JULIE ALIPALA, DIVINA SUSON AND JIGGER J. JERUSALEM IN MINDANAO
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