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Statement on Martial Law in Mindanao

While CULE’s current solidarity project in the Philippines is not in Mindanao, your International Solidarity Committee wanted to share this statement from KILUSAN on the recent declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao. We will be keeping a close watch on further developments.

Martial Law in Mindanao, Overkill

Following clashes between government troops and alleged members of the Maute Group in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte has made good his earlier threats to declare Martial Rule over the region.

The 60 day declaration came as the Maute group was said to have “set ablaze establishments” and the firefight with government troops which started 3:20 pm, Tuesday, May 23.

A closer perusal of the news brings up critical questions.

Four minutes (9:56PM) before the ten pm declaration by President Duterte, Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra was reported to have been pleading with authorities, especially the AFP to send reinforcements despite assurances that “help was on their way”.

Another report featuring Mayor Gandamra said that by 7:32 PM, the local government still has all control of the government establishments and the streets are quiet.

Mayor Gandamra’s statement is consistent with that released by AFP Public Affairs Office Chief Marine Colonel Edgard A. Arevalo in social media, declaring that “the situation (in Marawi) has stabilized” and there is “no truth to the earlier reports that Amai Pakpak Hospital has been occupied and that the people there were held hostage”, the “City Hall was not occupied” and that the “sporadic firefight heard was harassment actions by terrorist sympathizers”.

In the same statement, the AFP pointed out that reports linking ISIS to Maute are “spurious” and characterized them as a “ small, local terror group”, which is opposite of the statement made in the impromptu Press Conference in Moscow by government officials announcing the 60 day Martial Law of Mindanao branding Maute as part of or affiliated with ISIS.

Like the unjustified declaration of a State of National Emergency following the bombing in Davao Market last year which have yet to be lifted, the declaration of Martial Law for an entire region is another overkill move as the clash cannot be imagined to be either invasion or rebellion, the necessary Constitutional Basis for declaring Martial Law.

In more than a dozen instances, the President himself has articulated his preference to impose Martial Law for varying reasons, the latest of which was in the event that the conflict in Mindanao will spiral out of control. The situation has already stabilized says the AFP, logically the declaration is superfluous.

In fact, no armed group is posing as a threat against government and one cannot help but think that the Maute threat is being blown up way out of proportion.

We view this declaration as a confirmation of Duterte’s obsession with strong hand rule which he has always threatened to do every time his plans and decisions, his exercise of presidential authority, are questioned. He has said before that if he is pushed he would do. Now finding even a flimsy reason he declares martial law.

The declaration is arbitrary having not considered the report and assessment by the AFP and the local government that the situation is under control.

Furthermore, just as the open-ended “state of emergency”, this martial law declaration was announced by the presidential spokesperson not by Duterte himself. The declaration was made while the president was in Russia underscoring the fact that there was no serious and objective study of the situation. Such arbitrariness betrays Duterte’s tendency to abuse authority.

Though the declaration cited the constitutional provision stating the basis for imposing martial law, such situation however does not exist, even in Marawi city.

The declaration is too vague and therefore open to abuses. It dangerously threatens the people’s democratic and legal rights, the functions of the civilian government and the courts. In fact, it will surely further the culture of fear and impunity already besetting the nation and not to mention open doors to rights abuses that would befall the citizens of Mindanao.

We demand that this declaration be recalled immediately and make the president answer for his action.

Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya [KILUSAN]

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