Palace to human rights 'victims': Present evidence

Ruth Abbey Gita

STOP “sloganeering” and present evidence about the purported human rights violations committed under the martial law regime in Mindanao, Malacañang challenged those who claimed to be victims.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Thursday, December 14, that the government could not act on the alleged violations of human rights in Mindanao, if no one would file a formal complaint before the proper court.

“Again, these groups need to go beyond sloganeering. They need to actually submit evidence so that authorities can investigate and punish the perpetrators,” Roque told a press conference.

“The nature of human rights law is it is the state which has the obligation to investigate, to punish and prosecute unless they file a complaint, we would not know,” he added.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting erupted between the security troops and Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur. The 60-day military rule was extended by Congress until December 31, 2017 and, on Wednesday, further extended this to December 31, 2018.

During the joint congressional session Wednesday, opposition lawmakers, including Kabataan party-list Representative Sarah Jane Elago, claimed that numerous human rights abuses were committed in Mindanao.

Elago said the regional rights coordinator in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had been able to record “14,000 testimonies of human rights violations” during the five-month battle in Marawi City.

James Gomez, Amnesty International director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement released on Wednesday likewise believed that extending martial law would lead to more abuses of human rights.

“Civilians in Mindanao have faced unlawful killings, destruction of their homes, ill-treatment and numerous other human rights abuses at the hands of the Philippine armed forces and Islamist militants since the imposition of martial law,” Gomez said.

“The length of this latest extension, until the end of 2018, is an ominous move that almost certainly signals further abuses in the months ahead,” he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, martial law administrator, however, insisted that the Philippine troops “never commit violence against civilians.” (SunStar Philippines)