Militants urge CHR to probe abuses during martial law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 June) – Different militant groups have called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate alleged human rights violations committed during martial law in seven provinces in Mindanao.

In a press conference Thursday, Sheena Duazo, secretary-general of the Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said around 100 militants will hold a protest on Friday, exactly one month since President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s declaration of martial law, to urge the CHR to visit the hinterland communities where the alleged violations carried out by the military against farmers and Lumads took place.

She said their group also received reports, which included among others, threats and harassments, illegal arrest, arson, strafing, extrajudicial killings, forced evacuation, and frustrated killings in North Cotabato, Bukidnon, Davao oriental, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Sur, Davao del Norte, and Davao City.

Duazo said they are ready to present all reports of the human rights violations during the rally that will be participated by multi-sectoral groups, including Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Pasaka-SMR.

“They have to investigate. It’s their job to go to the communities and investigate. It should not be the affected residents who should go to their office. We will keep on pressing them to investigate in the communities and recommend charges against the erring soldiers,” she said.

Duazo said they demand that those military and paramilitary members be held liable for their abuses.

The progressive groups have renewed their calls for Duterte to withdraw his declaration of martial law and order the military to stop the use of aerial bombs they claimed have displaced around 1,700 individuals in North Cotabato and Bukidnon.

Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag maintained that the martial law is “not the solution” to address terrorism in Mindanao because it has resulted in the displacement of civilian families who are caught in the crossfire.

He debunked the claims of the government that no human rights were violated under martial law, even as Duterte assured that the martial law will be “least of your worry” for the law-abiding citizens.

Apiag claimed that the number of political killings has gone up to 35 under the Duterte administration, of which five were recorded within the first month of the 60-day martial law.

He said families are also exposed to other forms of human rights violations such as threat, harassment and intimidation.

Apiag blamed the increase in the number of political killings to martial law that Duterte declared on May 23 when clashes broke out between military forces and members of the Maute Group in Marawi City.

He alleged that the declaration of martial law gives the soldiers the “license” to commit even more abuses against the Lumads and farmers who are the primary victims of the aerial bombings and military operations in the hinterlands.

“It is very clear that the martial law is being used by the military to perpetrate human rights violations. The human rights violation is worsening now. Even before martial law the violations were already increasing, what more now that they have the license to do so,” he said.

Duazo noted that these human rights violations should be enough reason for the President to withdraw his martial law.

Cosain Naga Jr., spokesperson of Kawagib, a Moro human rights group, said their community in Maguindanao has suffered from incessant aerial bombings carried out by the military.

He said the President must order the military to refrain from using aerial bombs because these are destroying both lives and properties of the Moro people. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)