OPPOSITION to the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao continues to persist as both houses of Congress voted in favor of stretching it for another 12 months on Wednesday, Dec. 13.
But some sectoral leaders are apprehensive of the looming extension saying martial rule is not a necessity to combat extremist movements in Mindanao.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente priest Fr. Rolando Abejo, who also chairs the Promotion of Church People’s Response and the spokesperson of the Movement Against Tyranny in Northern Mindanao, said the military rule in the southern Philippines has been proven “unjustified and a disguise.”
Abejo said the implementation of martial law in Mindanao, specifically in Marawi City, has only worsened the plight of the affected civilians as as evidenced by the mounting reports of human rights abuses allegedly perpetrated by government troops during and after the conflict in that city.
He noted that as reported by national and international fact-finding mission in Marawi and in “lumad” (indigenous peoples) communities around Mindanao, violations during this period has skyrocketed.
“ML (martial law) has legalized [human rights violations] committed by state forces notably the aerial bombing in Marawi. It has been used to quell defenders and advocates of lumad and people’s organizations fighting for their right to land, life and rights,” Abejo said.
In effect, he added, ML extension will only exacerbate drug related and political extra judicial killings, forced evacuation of lumads, illegal arrest and detention, harassment, among others.
“Not in the name of peace, not in the name of security, not in the name of development, not in our name,” Abejo said, in reference to the martial law extension.
Drieza Lininding, chairperson of the Moro Consensus Group, said the military rule was not actually implemented to quell terroristic activities but to suppress the rights of the Maranao people, especially those who were driven away from their homes and communities when the war in Marawi erupted on May 23.
Lininding likened the situation of the present-day Maranaos to that of the Jews in Hitler-era Germany who were subjected to all kinds of harassment and harsh treatment under the hands of the Nazi authorities.
“We are like the Jews during Hitler’s rule in Germany. The only thing missing is the profiling of our pet cats,” he noted, saying that even Maranaos who are not living in Marawi and the Lanao provinces have been required register with the local government units and law enforcement agencies.
“Also, why was martial law only declared in Mindanao? Why not make it nationwide? The truth is, ML (martial law) is only for Marawi and Meranaws,” he said.
Lininding added now that the military rule is extended Marawi residents whose properties were damaged or looted during siege can no longer file complaint against the perpetrators.
For his part, Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur provincial crisis management committee, said his support on the extended martial law rests on “necessity and practicality.”
Adiong said the actual threat of terrorism “is not imaginary [or] distant. What we observed for the past five months of intense armed-conflict and the humanitarian crisis it resulted following the liberation of Marawi from the terrorist group creates and atmosphere of insecurity.”
He said the challenge now for the government to normalize the peace and security condition on the ground in relation to the ongoing efforts to respond to threats against the whole province is still “a work in progress.”
“The battle in Marawi is over. The long war to free us from terror threats has yet to begin. There is a common expression that winning one battle is not enough to secure a victory in war. This is true to Marawi and Lanao del Sur. We won the battle but we are yet to win the war against terrorism and violent extremism,” Adiong said in a statement he posted on social media after the Lower House and Senate decided to extend martial law until Dec. 31, 2018.
But Jamalodin Mohammad, a resident of Marawi City affected by the five-month war, said the extension of Martial Law could only mean additional burden to their lives in Marawi City.
“Mag-extend din ang pahirap sa buhay namin,” Mohammad said.
Two months after the combat operation in Marawi against the terrorists was terminated, residents from the barangays who are inside the former main battle area are still asking to be allowed to see their houses or areas even in few minutes only.
The military did not grant their request accordingly because of security reason.
Iligan City Lone District Representative Frederick W. Siao said on Wednesday he is in consonance with the people of Iligan City who agree the extension of Martial Law in Mindanao by one year.
The reason why he voted yes during the deliberation in the House of Representatives, giving President Rodrigo Duterte what he was asking for in the votes of 226-23.
Siao said as a Mindanaoan and as the representative of Iligan City, security and political stability are among his top concerns.
“Recovery and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi will not prosper if the people's safety is not assured and the remaining pockets of terrorism are not quashed,” he said in a statement release to the media.
He said any kind of abuse made by the military should and will not be tolerated.
According to Siao, Mindanao is ready to forge ahead as the new economic powerhouse of the Philippines, not just in agriculture, but also in manufacturing, services, and tourism.
The security and safety of our Citizen, investors, tourists will be assured in the short term by the extension of martial law and political solutions such as progressive charter change, the BBL and more economic legislation empowering local governments and creating jobs for the long term, he said.
In Cagayan de Oro, a militant group leader yesterday said the approved one year martial law extension in Mindanao, could also mean one year of state forces' abuses to the public even as saying that the approval was expected.
Progressive group bloc Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general Wildon Barros said they are certain that human rights violations would triple with the one year extension of the martial rule.
Although it is not stated, Barros said it is clear that one of the premeditated reason of President Rodrigo Duterte's extension proposal is to push through with his pronouncements on the crackdown of left-leaning groups and his dissenters. He said the one year extension also meant war against the New People's Army (NPA) rebels, which he tagged, as terrorists.
"But we remain unfazed with this news, we will continue to monitor human rights violations and take action against this administration that is becoming authoritarian and tyrannical," Barros said in vernacular.
"The lumads in the mountains will be the most affected in this martial rule. But we are unafraid, the 1987 Constitution is still functioning, courts are still open," he said.
Mayor Oscar Moreno, meanwhile, said he is not opposing the martial law extension, saying he has not observed any abuses yet.
He said martial law now has a different meaning and especially not the same to the one declared by former President Ferdinand Marcos.
"I express support, ang martial law has gathered a new meaning, it's not the same martial law of Marcos, naa ang Kongreso, Senado, ang judiciary walay revamp, unlike kang Marcos kaniadto," he said.
"This martial law is a lot different, ang importante pud, is we now have a very professional military, and ang police is civilian naman daan," he said.
Moreno said the public and the international community should understand that there is nothing to fear and worry about, as the city had already overcome the setbacks that the martial law brought.
"The declaration of martial law, we have seen as an immediate reaction, ang tourism nikanaog, business forums cancelled, the investments were put on hold pero walay withdrawals. Ang travel and pagbisita naapektuhan, hotel bookings, pero in terms of investment decisions, worst case was some were put on hold, pero nakita man nila nga lahi ni nga martial law, so confidence started to rise," he said.
"So what we want to do now is to fortify and strengthen resiliency as a people, as a community, and believe this problem, we can rise up and emerge stronger," he added.
Voting 240-27 in a joint session Wednesday, December 13, the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to further extend martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until December 31, 2018.
The Senate voted 14 yes and 4 has expressed opposition, while for the House of Representatives, 226 voted in the affirmative and 23 voted no. There were no abstentions in both the House and the Senate.