Marawi biz leader agrees to martial law extension but urges gov’t to address looting, human rights abuses

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Dec) – Metro Marawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MMCCI) vice president Solaiman L. Matonding agreed to extend martial law in Mindanao to one year for maintaining security but the government must make sure to address rampant looting by the military, this being “the untold story of the Marawi siege.”

“If this is not resolved, then martial law is defective,” Matonding said in a text message to MindaNews on Monday.

Matonding, who is also President of the Marawi Association of Internally Displaced Business Persons Association, appealed to government to look into the looting allegedly perpetrated by personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) securing Marawi.

He added that martial law extension would not be wise if justice will not be given to victims of looting and human rights abuses. He said they demand government to prosecute the culprits.

“Terrorists don’t have cargo trucks to transport these things, only the military is capable of that and there are pictures taken as evidence to prove these allegations – 6×6 trucks of AFP carrying these belongings,” he said.

Photos of alleged looting were emailed to MindaNews by Matonding. Some of these photos showed military personnel loading looted items into the military trucks while others showed trucks full of alleged looted items.

Matonding added that their homes were looted of money and items, which included, among others, jewelry, sala sets, appliances, jars, decorations and even wooden doors made of narra.

Asked how he obtained those photos, he said his friends sent them to him. [MindaNews asked for the original, untouched high resolution copies of the pictures, but Matonding has not replied yet as of press time.]

Matonding said all stores in “Padian” (market/commercial areas) were emptied because of looting.

“Imposible Maute ang kumuha. We suspect kaya tumagal ang gyera ng 5 months dahil sa looting (It’s impossible that Maute took it. We suspect the reason why the battle lasted for five months was because of looting),” he said.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, following armed clashes between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi.

He announced that he was extending it until end of 2017, only four days before it would expire on July 22. Congress approved it.

Duterte announced Marawi “liberated” from the influence of the terrorist group after the death of Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, emir of the ISIS in Southeast Asia, and Omar Maute last October 16.

One-year martial law extension

In his letter addressed to both houses of Congress dated December 8, Duterte asked for a one-year extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus from January 1, 2018 to December 2018 upon separate assessments made by police and military.

Duterte said the extension of martial law is necessary to ensure total eradication of the DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM), Turaifie Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf, and New People’s Army.

The NPA and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) had been designated as terrorist organizations with the Proclamation No. 374 signed by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on December 5 pursuant to Republic Act No. 10168, also known as the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2002.

Despite the death of Hapilon and Maute brothers, Duterte said the remnants of their groups have continued to rebuild their organization through recruitment and training of new members and fighters to carry on the rebellion.

“You will note that at least 185 persons listed in the Martial Law Arrest Orders have remained at-large and, in all probability, are presently regrouping and consolidating their forces,” he said.

Create special body

Matonding said they recommended to the Task Force Bangon Marawi the creation of a special body that will investigate possible abuses by the police and military and avoid “extortion by men in uniform.”

He said the group also requested the task force to establish Marawi Inventory on Properties Damaged Board (MIPRODAB) to conduct an official assessment of actual damages to private properties and business establishments.

Matonding added they also seek indemnification to all victims in the business sector.

He added that the Marawi Chamber estimated losses in the business sector to reach P8.8 billion.

He said this may not be conclusive of the actual cost of damage because of the inaccessibility of the areas in the battleground and requested that they be granted with safe conduct pass to make better assessment and salvage undamaged goods, merchandise and other valuable properties. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)