Mindanao’s bishops on Martial Law in Mindanao: it must be temporary

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 May) — Mindanao’s Catholic bishops acknowledged there are many fears about President Rodrigo Duterte’s May 23 declaration of martial law in Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities but for now, there  are “no solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible.”

“But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary,” the Bishops said in a statement dated May 26, as they vowed to “condemn any abuse of Martial Law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil.”

“Let us be vigilant,”  said the statement released by Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, “with the approval of the Bishops of Mindanao.”

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, officiates the mass during the feast of the Santo Nino in Midsayap, North Cotabato on January 19, 2014. The town also celebrated its 75th year as the first parish established by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. MindaNews Photo by Keith Bacongco
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, OMI, Archbishop of Cotabato, officiates the mass during the feast of the Santo Nino in Midsayap, North Cotabato on January 19, 2014. Quevedo released the May 26 statement of  the Bishops of Mindanao on martial law and the Marawi Crisis. MindaNews file hoto by KEITH BACONGCO

Quevedo was among the staunchest critics of  martial law and the Marcos dictatorship. He was Bishop of Kidapawan when Italian priest Tullio Favali was gunned down by a paramilitary band led by Norberto Manero on April 11, 1985. Several church workers and parishioners from his Diocese were killed, arrested, tortured under martial law.

Duterte signed Proclamation 216 in the Russian Federation on May 23, placing the entire Mindanao under a state of martial law “for a period not exceeding 60 days.”  Duterte also suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for the duration of martial law.

The Bishops’ statement, “Pursue What Leads to Peace,” is addressed to all Mindanawons and not just the Catholic faithful who asked them for pastoral guidance on the issue of martial law.

Mindanao has at least 21 Bishops for five Archdioceses, 14 Dioceses, a Vicariate and a Prelature.

The Bishops condemned the terroristic acts that have caused the loss of innocent lives,  the burning of homes and public buildings, including a Protestant school dormitory and a Catholic Cathedral in Marawi City.

They also condemned the “unconscionable kidnapping” of teachers and church personnel, including Fr. Teresito Suganob.

They prayed for their safety and appealed to hostage-takers to “release all of them unharmed.”

“The victims fear death but they also have the courage to give ultimate witness to Christ,” the Bishops said.

The Bishops also prayed for “all the murdered innocent victims in Marawi” and asked the Lord to “protect all the families that have fled to safety.”

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, military spokesperson  told a press conference in Davao City on Friday morning that as of end of Thursday, Day 3 of hte clashes, 31 terrorists have been killed and 13 government forces as well, two of them police personnel. ABS-CBN News Channel reported five civilians have been killed since Day One.

“In the strongest terms we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace. Especially so when terrorism is perpetrated while our Muslim brothers and sisters are preparing for the holy month of Ramadhan,” the Bishops said.

Terrorism, they said, distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion, destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths and “creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility.”

Duterte’s martial law

The Bishops said President Duterte’s to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao has been criticized as “reminiscent of the horrors of a past dictatorship” while others find it justified.

Duterte on Wednesday said his martial law “would be no different from what President Marcos did” and that he would be “harsh.”

The Bishops said they are aware that the problems of peace and order, of the continuing disruptive activities of other rebel groups, of criminality and drugs, of corruption and underdevelopment  are in every nook and corner of Mindanao, and that these problems “go beyond the city limits of Marawi.”

The Bishop said the Catholic faithful asked them for pastoral guidance regarding martial law,  and that they are guided by the Sacred Scriptures and by the social teachings of the Church. They said St. Paul exhorts them to “pursue what leads to peace.”

Martial Law, the Bishops said, “is a means of last resort.”

They posed several questions: “Are moral principles fulfilled? Were other means to resolve the deep and wide serious problems of Mindanao impractical and ineffective? Will the positive effects of Martial Law outweigh the negative effects? Will there be probability of success? Will it bring about a culture of accountability and end a culture of impunity? Will Martial Law increase human rights violations? Will Martial Law be abused for evil purposes?”

The answers to many questions are speculative, the Bishops said.

“We have many fears,” they acknowledged, but added that at present, “we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary.”

They exhorted everyone to be “calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction.”

They urged government to “remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good.”

The Bishops emphasized that the focus of every religion is “peace on earth, peace in heaven.”

“Let us pursue together what leads to peace. Let all religious teachers and leaders quell the tendencies towards the terrorist ideology. Together let us pursue what leads to peace. Let us pray for peace and work for peace.  God bless the people of Marawi. God bless all Mindanawons,” the Bishops added. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)