[Statement] Lift the Martial Law Now, CTUHR urges the President

Lift the Martial Law Now, CTUHR urges the President

It is now more than a week since Martial Law was declared in the whole of Mindanao to eliminate the Maute group which was initially estimated by the military as just about a hundred. The AFP has announced that probably only 30-40 Maute group members are remaining. There are even a number who surrendered. Yet, the military offensive and the so-called aerial surgical bombings that have heavily destroyed Marawi have not weakened. In fact, there are several more armored tanks that were brought in according to reports. Both President Duterte and AFP spokesperson Gen. Restituto Padilla have openly declared that even if the Maute group has been decimated, the Martial Law will not be lifted. It could even be extended and may include other areas in the Visayas, they said.

This is extremely alarming. The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) joins the many in opposing Martial Law declaration and the suspenstion of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao. This is not to belittle the horror and damage that Maute group has inflicted in Marawi city and the terror it has caused in the entire country. CTUHR stands with Marawi and the people of Mindanao in condemning in the highest term, the terrorism that plague the island, that is often exploited to justify the war, be it counter-insurgency or counter-terror that the state is waging with its full might, leaving only more displaced, terrorized, hungrier and impoverished population. Except for the businessmen, who see Martial Law as an opportunity to operate their businesses peacefully, ordinary people are horrified.

CTUHR calls for the immediate lifting of Martial Law and urges the President to stop insinuating that any human rights violations, including rape committed by the military on the ground under Martial Law will be tolerated, as he himself will be accountable. There is nothing to joke or to be sarcastic about rape. This only emboldens the military to do what they see fit to the detriment of people’s rights. This is also a tacit declaration that the lives of innocents considered by this administration as collateral damage are insignificant in the name of anti-terrorism offensive.

CTUHR also views that military offensive and aerial bombings were uncalled for as destruction and thousands of displaced people running for their lives unfold in our very eyes. Damages created by bombings have what residents noted obliterated what they had gained from the years of hard work. It could be recalled that last year, Maute group members also figured in several bombings, including the one in Davao city night market that killed 14 people. But in all incidents, the President and the AFP were proud that they were able to arrest those responsible only in 10 days. Why declare Martial law?

Gen. Padilla and President Duterte have the answers that raise more alarm. That Martial Law will target all groups, terrorists, criminals, drugs syndicates, and rebels including the New People’s Army. Prior to suspension, the government is negotiating peace with the MNLF, MILF and NDF that Martial law is now targeting. In fact, outside Marawi, such as in Compostela Valley, soldiers are capitalizing Martial Law in the conduct of Oplan Kapayapaan counter-insurgency program threatening striking workers at Shin Shun banana plantation to end their strike, lest they be arrested. Martial Law would only worsen the human rights violations in the areas resulting from longtime militarization in the area.

The terrorism and state counter-terrorism in the past, inflicted particularly in Mindanao, bred only disgruntled, at times desperate people who one hand, became easy targets of terrorist groups to espouse their cause, or on the other, chose to defend their rights and survival by organizing themselves into legitimate community and peoples’ organizations. This condition was used to escalate war and to ask for so called needed US military support for training, intelligence, arms and troops. It became a vicious cycle, that did not work and only left a war-torn Mindanao that only `oligarchs’ the President wants to chase are happy with their mining and other investments thriving amidst war against the people. It will not work now. As Mindanaon himself, President Duterte should know better.###

Daisy Arago, CTUHR Executive Director
Contact number: 0916 248 4876

Press Statement
02 June 2017

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