Civilian monitor says martial law in Mindanao not needed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 September) – There is no need for the continued imposition of Martial Law in Mindanao four months after its declaration with the siege in Marawi City by the ISIS-inspired Maute Group as its basis, a civilian monitor calling itsellf Alisto! said on Monday.

President Rodrigo Duterte issued Proclamation 216 placing the entire Mindanao under martial on May 23, the same day the Maute Group attacked Marawi where it’s still battling government forces.

Conveners of Alisto!, a civilian monitoring of martial law, join Dean Manuel Quibod of the Ateneo de Davao University at the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, 25 September 2017. Quibod represents the Ateneo Legal Aid Services  in Alisto!. Photo from Alisto FB page

Speaking during the Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City Davao Monday, lawyer Manuel Quibod, who represents the Ateneo Legal Aid Services at the Alisto!, said they believe that Duterte’s “calling out power” would be enough to deal with the crisis.

Section 18, Article 7 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states, “The President shall be the Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces of the Philippines and whenever it becomes necessary, he may call out such armed forces to prevent or suppress lawless violence, invasion or rebellion.”

“President’s calling out powers as Commander-in-Chief is always there with or without Martial Law declaration. ‘Sec. 18, Art 7’ is his commander-in-chief powers. It also provides when he could declare martial law,” he said in a text message.

Quibod, College of Law dean at the Ateneo de Davao University, said they are appealing to Duterte not to extend or even expand martial law to cover the entire country.

Based on the Constitution the martial law declaration was supposed to lapse on July 22.

But four days before that, the president announced he was extending it until December 31 this year because “rebellion in Mindanao will not be completely quelled” within a shorter timeframe. Congress approved the extension.

Quibod said the declaration of martial law has “impinged on civilian mobility and privacy, and led to the curtailment of other rights” and that he was wary of the possibility of more “infractions of human rights processes, procedures, and the outright abuse of these rights.”

He called on Duterte to lift Proclamation 216 hoping that doing so would restore normalcy to facilitate rehabilitation which he said is “an enormous effort” that both the government and Mindanawons must work together for.

Alisto!, an association of lawyers and civil society organizations, set up hotlines (09451238228 and 09491008708) to receive reports of violations and abuses in the city, according to Quibod.

“We have a help desk who will answer these calls. The processing will be done because validation will be made and the documentation. This will be brought to the legal team to make an assessment as well as to those in the ground to validate. Once validated, and there is basis for filing of cases, then we will file cases, that will be one,” he said.

He said Alisto! will also assist in addressing other martial law-related concerns “to avoid similar incident to occur in the future.”

He said their group provides a platform for citizens to engage government and its institutions to ensure accountability, compliance with human rights standards and justice protocols, civilian protection, rule of law, and access to real-time information.

“We subscribe to active citizenship and community participation as imperatives in a time of Martial Law. These should be expressed not only by securing our neighbors and making our homes, villages, and communities safe, but also by establishing environment where rights of citizens are protected, promoted and fulfilled,” he said.

“We also contribute to the protest movement against the revival of historical revisionism and the legacies of widespread human rights violations and return to dictatorship,” he said.

He said lawyer members of the group assisted the military forces craft guidelines, especially in checkpoints, and in making arrests to ensure adherence to the law.

Mags Maglana, a convener of Alisto! and Konsensya Dabaw spokesperson, said the group’s work is both preventive and responsive, to prevent human rights abuses or help the victims attain justice through an efficient monitoring mechanism.

She explained that Alisto! is an initiative to ensure a “climate” for the protection of human rights under martial law.

“We do not need to wait for the problem to come out first before we can set up mechanisms,” she said.

She said that under martial law innocent individuals risk arrest during profiling by authorities if they fail to prove their identities. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)