Mindanawons wary of martial law

Army soldiers man a checkpoint along the Iligan-Marawi highway in the municipality of Pantar, Lanao del Norte Wednesday morning (24 May 2017) as authorities strengthen security measures following the Maute Group attack in Marawi City. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/24 May) — The declaration of martial law in Mindanao by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday night evoked memories among Mindanawons of abuses committed by the military during the Marcos regime, with some questioning the real motive behind the move.

Duterte issued the declaration while in Moscow, Russia for an official visit, citing rebellion as the reason, in particular the attack carried out by Maute group members in Marawi City.

For Malaybalay Bishop Jose A. Cabantan, “martial Law brings bad memories in the past, abuses of human rights and desecration of human dignity as the writ of habeas corpus was suspended. Arrest without warrant, illegal detention and salvagings happened day to day. An atmosphere of fear predominated all over the land.”

“So is there no other way of containing these armed groups? ML might just add more chaos, abuses to our already troubled and conflicting situation. We continue to pray for peace in our country and in Mindanao based on right relationships,” he said.

“I think it’s an overreaction on the part of d government. It’s counterproductive in the sense that people might think that the incidence of violence is widespread in Mindanao. It also gave media mileage for this naughty Maute. But if the Russians can send us the precision guided missiles for the Maute, let’s use it na,” said Prof. Christian Inovejas, of Bukidnon State University in Malaybalay City.

Lawyer Eding Cardona, hearing officer at the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Region 10 said: “I do not have enough info to discuss the matter. But ‘having been there, done that’, I certainly do not want it inflicted on my children and grandchildren. I pray that it not be like the 1972 brutal version. As of now naman, it appears to be a different animal. And knowing the president at least when he was Davao City Mayor, I hope the nightmare that Marcos forced upon us will not happen.”

Dr. Lourdes dela Torre, a peace educator and community organizer in Bukidnon described the declaration as a “drastic and violent response to a violent situation.”

“The president has an authoritarian character. Expect more violence to escalate as the military is now given the power through the barrel of the guns. How will this affect the civilian authorities? What are the rights of civilians that are threatened by this declaration? There is need spell out what rights are guaranteed to civilians. Will martial rule be in the checkpoint only? Or will it penetrate the civilian institutions?” she added.

In a video message posted by Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, Duterte said that like President Marcos he will be harsh. He also hinted that he may extend martial law to one year.

“Let me just tell everybody that I have declared martial law for Mindanao. How long? Well, how, how, if it would take a year to do it, then we’ll do it, if  it is over within a month, then I’d be happy,” the President said in the video post.

But Duterte quickly added: “Pero ang martial law is martial law ha so kayong mga kababayan ko, you have experienced martial law, itong ngayon, it would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’ll be I’ll be harsh.” (See related story)

Kaloy Manlupig, president of Balay Mindanaw questioned why the declaration covers the entire island when only Marawi was being attacked by armed groups.

“So what makes this government different from some irresponsible media? Ang gubot naa sa Marawi, nganong i-apil man tibuok Mindanao? Be informed that as of 10oclock tonight (Tuesday), the Constitution has been suspended in Mindanao, and every Mindanaoan will no longer enjoy the writ if habeas corpus for the next 60 days,” Manlupig said.

Dats Sangkula, political affairs officer of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, warned that the declaration “is a prelude for something else. Let’s see how it unfolds. Be vigilant. Be safe.”

”As a matter of caution for our people, please bring your IDs whenever you leave the house. Martial law means the military rules. It means in cases of searches and seizures, there is no warrant of arrest, no search warrant, and there is suspension of habaeas corpus. Still, calling on everyone to stay calm. We continue to monitor. Everything is unfolding,” Jehann Mutin advised.

Others like Amirah Pendatun, a Bangsamoro rights advocate, expressed anger and dismay.

“To my Moro brothers and sisters who believe the President would ‘correct historical injustices’ because he’s from Mindanao and has Moro blood, what do we get? Martial Law. Martial Law in Mindanao. Knew it. Campaign period pa lang. How could you all be blind? How could you all be gullible? How could you all forget? Naniwala kayo sa ‘correct historical injustices.’ Nag-connect kayo sa ‘Moro blood’. Eto ba ‘yon?! I do not know what to feel,” Pendatun said.

Monahayra Guro, a teacher in Marawi, said he was wondering why there were no police or soldiers who confronted the armed men who attacked the city as they walked the streets and entered some offices.

“We say Never Again, pero ngayon Not Again. Where is the proclamation order?” Al Gamal, a Moro lawyer asked.

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said that while Duterte was right in his decision to cut short his trip to Russia and return home to oversee the situation, her group opposes the Martial Law declaration “because it is open to all sorts of abuses by state security forces notorious for human rights violations. It is a blanket endorsement for so many abuses including warrantless arrests, searches and seizures.”

“The declaration of Martial Law will create more problems than solutions. Its coverage is the ENTIRE Mindanao where there are various other conflicts and struggles not related to ISIS or the Maute group and ASG. How will Martial Law be used against them?

“The various armed conflicts in Mindanao are rooted in decades-old problems of poverty, inequality, discrimination and violations of the right to self-determination. These will ultimately require more than just a military solution. Martial Law is not the answer,” Suazo said.

Alizedney Ditucalan, dean of the Mindanao State University College of Law explained that Section 18 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides for the authority and limits of the power of the president to declare martial law.

”Within 48 hours [after the declaration], the President must submit personally or in writing a report to the Congress. In other words, the President must immediately return to the Philippines and comply with this constitutional requirement.

”The Congress, voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members in regular or special session, may revoke such proclamation or suspension, which revocation shall not be set aside by the President. In other words, the Congress can override the President.

”The Congress must now convene within 24-hour.

“The Congress, if not in session, shall, within twenty-four hours following such proclamation or suspension, convene in accordance with its rules without any need of a call,” he said.

Ditucalan added that “if Congress doesn’t override the President, any citizen may invoke the judicial review power of the Supreme Court to check the factual basis of the proclamation. If Martial Law is not warranted, the Supreme Court may nullify the proclamation.”

”Most importantly, the proclamation of Martial Law doesn’t not suspend the operation of the constitution. In other words, our rights guaranteed by the constitution remain inviolable,” he emphasized. (A pooled report)