DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/ 21 Sept) – Martial law in Mindanao should be lifted as it has failed to address threats of terrorism in parts of the island and only worsened the human rights abuses in Lumad and Moro communities, an official of a human rights group said Friday.
Speaking during the rally at the Freedom Park here marking the 46th anniversary of the martial law of the late dictator President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag urged President Rodrigo Duterte to lift the martial law declaration.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 last year, the same day the siege of Marawi City staged by ISIS-inspired militants erupted. The declaration has been extended twice, the second extension to end on December 31 this year.
But Apiag said that despite martial law, acts of terrorism continued in parts of Mindanao, alluding to the recent bombing incidents in North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Jolo provinces.
He said they believe Duterte copied Marcos who imposed martial law to suppress demands for change during his 20-year rule.
Marcos was elected in 1965, reelected in 1969 and declared martial law in 1972. He was no longer eligible to run in the aborted 1973 presidential election.
“This is the same as Duterte’s martial law as his way to answer what he promised to the people even before he was elected President in 2016,” Apiag said.
He said attacks against civilian communities had worsened since martial law was imposed.
He said military presence had affected the Lumad schools and displaced some residents in various areas of Southern Mindanao.
Apiag said economic conditions had also deteriorated with the rising prices of basic commodities.
Around 500 Lumad people from Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Compostela Valley provinces have been staying at the Haran evacuation facility run by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in the city due to alleged militarization, he said.
He said many of those who are seeking refuge at the Haran since 2014 went home immediately after Duterte became President but returned there, alleging that they continued to be harassed by the military in their communities.
Lumad children have been attending classes at makeshift classrooms inside the evacuation center, he said.
He said members of various progressive groups have also been forced to surrender to clear their names, otherwise they will be charged in court or “assassinated”.
Apiag said militant groups will exhaust all means to prevent the possible extension and nationwide expansion of martial law.
He suspected the recent bombings in General Santos City, Midsayap in North Cotabato, and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat were state-sanctioned intended to justify a third extension of martial law.
A briefer released by the Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Community Learning Center said teachers and students have called for an end to the “terror” and abuses committed under martial law.
Salugpongan student Rogine Herbolingo said their schools have been the target of attacks by military and paramilitary troops before the President placed the entire Mindanao under martial law.
“We have experienced all forms of violence, from aerial bombings, to community displacements to physical and psychological assaults. But all these intensified since Mindanao was put under military rule,” he said.
The briefer added that 24 students of Salugpongan Tibucag campus in Dagohoy, Davao del Norte spotted a helicopter flying in circles above the school campus and dropping bombs in a nearby community some 15 minutes later.
Apiag called on the government to resume the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.
Peace negotiations have been stalled after Duterte issued Proclamation 360 cancelling the fifth round talks of “for lack of sincerity” following the November 9, 2017 ambush by the New People’s Army of a police vehicle in Bukidnon that killed four-month old Walysha Manchorao and other attacks. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)