“We fear for the effects of war on the civilian population.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Various progressive groups raised the alarm on President Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao last night, saying this will only worsen the crisis situation in Marawi City where armed groups were reported to have holed up. The group had reportedly burned a Catholic school and taken a priest and several other civilians hostage.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared the whole of Mindanao island under martial law on Tuesday night, May 23, following clashes between government and reported members of the Maute group in Marawi City. Duterte, who was in Russia, cut his state visit short to return to Manila this afternoon.
Progressives said the military solution will not solve the conflict but only aggravate it.
“We fear for the lives of the civilians who might get caught in the crossfire. We fear for the effects of war on the civilian population,” said Jerome Succor Aba, national president of the progressive Moro group Suara Bangsamoro. Aba said Duterte should learn from the disastrous aftermath of the “Zamboanga Siege” in 2013, where homes and properties were destroyed and hundreds of civilians were arrested and displaced by military operations targeting members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The Moro group had earlier called on the MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as well as religious groups, to talk to the Maute group to diffuse the tension.
The Duterte administration is set to resume talks with MILF and MNLF. The Maute group is reportedly comprised of Moro leaders who were dissatisfied with the peace talks between government and the MILF.
Human rights group Karapatan called martial law as “uncalled-for response,” as they also slammed Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who said in a press conference that martial law was declared in Mindanao because of unrest in areas such as in Zamboanga, Tawi-Tawi, Central Mindanao, and added the “pango-ngotong” (extortion) by the members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
“The DND chief, consistent with his warmongering, has laid the predicate for full blown rights violations, akin to the convoluted justifications of Marcos’ Martial Law,” said Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay. “Martial law is not the answer; it will never result to anything but gross violations of people’s rights,” she said.
Palabay said martial law will inevitably result in intensified military operations, aerial strikes, and “an open season for extrajudicial killings, illegal arrests, torture and other forms of rights violations.”
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said Duterte’s pronouncement that the martial law in Mindanao will be like the martial law during the Marcos era “is a dangerous edict.”
NUPL secretary general Ephraim Cortez said martial law should be the last resort and should be strictly within the bounds, requirements, and limitations of the Constitution.
“Placing the entire Mindanao under martial law will open the flood gates for unbridled human rights violations and abuses,” he said.
“In the end, it is the civilian population who will be greatly affected. It gives blanket power and authority to conduct military crackdowns and operations that would result in the further diminution of the people’s constitutional rights,” Cortez added.
Meanwhile, ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio urged Duterte to instead pursue the talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Bangsamoro.
“I hope that Duterte will heed the lessons of our history, reconsider, and immediately recall his declaration of martial law,” he said in a statement.
Tinio said that armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country “is rooted in the historic exploitation and oppression of the poor and marginalized – the landless and jobless peasants, the Moro and the Lumad.”
He said a military solution will not end these problems, which need genuine socio-economic and political reforms based on social justice, such as those being discussed in the GRP-NDFP peace talks.