DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 September) – President Rodrigo Duterte needs no “extraordinary powers” and he should lift the declaration placing the entire Mindanao under martial law, several groups said in Thursday’s protest marking the 45th anniversary of martial law.
During the National Day of Protest on Thursday at Freedom Park along Roxas Avenue, Konsensya Dabaw spokesperson Mags Maglana told reporters that Duterte must only invoke extraordinary powers when absolutely necessary.
Maglana acknowledged the need to eliminate the Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City that have been fighting the government forces for nearly four months but downplayed the need for martial law in Mindanao to restore peace and order.
Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23, following armed clashes between the Maute Group and government forces in Marawi.
Based on the Constitution the 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.
Maglana said she understands if some Dabawenyos appear to favor martial law because it gives the public a “sense of security”.
She, however, pointed out that people should remember the human rights abuses that took place under the 21-year rule of the late dictator Marcos, almost 14 years of it under martial law.
She said peace and order can still be maintained even without martial law if the police and the military would only do their jobs right.
She added extra-judicial killings reflect a weak government because it suggests “it is not in control of the situation”.
Protesters, including farmers, religious groups, and students, from several parts of Davao Region took to the streets to seek justice for the victims of martial law under Marcos.
They also asked Duterte to junk martial law, stop his bloody war on drugs, address political killings, drop the military’s Oplan Kapayaan, and lift his all-out war policy against the New People’s Army.
The protesters assembled at the Andres Bonifacio Rotunda, Poblacion District in the city and marched to Freedom Park on Roxas Avenue.
Bayan-Southern Mindanao Region secretary general Sheena Duazo expressed dismay that protesters coming from outside the city were held on Thursday morning at Task Force Davao checkpoints in Lasang, Calinan, and Sirawan in Toril.
Duazo said the protesters felt violated when a military convoy guided them after they were granted entry to the city, saying they wanted to join the rally as they were alleged victims of militarization.
She said she hopes the President would heed their call to give justice to victims of alleged military abuses.
Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag lamented that the 47 alleged political killings under the Duterte administration had almost surpassed the 52 political killings recorded during the Aquino administration.
He added that martial law must be lifted as the people risk arrest should they fail to provide identifications and prove they are not terrorists.
On September 19, Duterte issued Proclamation No. 319, declaring Thursday as a National Day of Protest.
It says the Duterte administration “recognizes the fear and indignation of the people against repetition and perpetuation of such human rights violations and all other failings of the government.”
It further states that the President “is in solidarity with the people’s call against all excesses and shortcomings of the government, and with the people’s desire to uphold highest standards of integrity, efficiency and accountability in government.”
“I urge all protesters to act within the bounds of the law, maintain a peaceful conduct of rallies, marches and demonstrations, be vigilant of possible infiltrators who may instigate violence in an effort to provoke the police and other law enforcement authorities, and avoid causing any undue inconvenience to their fellow citizens,” Duterte said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/Mindanews)