AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command whitewashes ML violations, drumbeats old, brazen lies

On August 23, 2018, the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, during its 12th anniversary celebration at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao in Panacan, Davao City, again announced that there are no rights violations during the more than one-year implementation of martial law in Mindanao. The event was attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“It is astounding how the Duterte regime, along with its equally fascist limbs, can lie with a straight face. Then again, what else did we expect? Just as the AFP parades fake surrenderees to create the illusion that they are “winning the peace”, the Eastern Mindanao Command drumbeats the same narrative that no violations have been committed under martial law. Contrary to their claim, the AFP has employed a whole spectrum of attacks against the Filipino people. The difference is that they are now ruthlessly and deliberately targeting leaders and individuals who attempt to expose these abuses,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

Karapatan cited that in the one year of martial law in Mindanao, at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings have been documented, with an average of one victim killed every week. There were also 22 documented cases of torture, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings. 

“There are actual victims who can testify. There are documents, affidavits, and other evidence that point to martial law violations. What does the EastMinCom say when two torture victims retell their experience of soldiers’ attempt to burn them alive? They gloss over the case, accuse the victims of being instruments of “propaganda” despite burn marks all over their body. They will never plead guilty, especially because they are supported and fully backed by their Commander-in-Chief,” emphasized Palabay, adding that among the highlight cases under Duterte’s martial law are the indiscriminate bombings in Marawi, the torture and frustrated killing of two small-scale miners in Compostela Valley, and the Lake Sebu Massacre in South Cotabato.

On May 23, 2017, in the wake of the Marawi siege, Duterte used the opportunity to declare martial law over the entire island of Mindanao, citing rebellion as the reason. In a press conference shortly after, Department of National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana justified the President’s decision amidst questions over the imposition of martial law in the whole of Mindanao, explaining that the problems in Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and the New People’s Army (NPA) were taken into account. 

The May 23 declaration was only initially effective for 60 days. It was extended until end of 2017, and was approved for another 1 year extension in 2018 by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court. Martial law proponents point to “an ongoing rebellion in Mindanao,” despite the absence of an “actual public uprising” or invasion as stipulated in the Constitution. 

“More than a year after the martial law declaration, what has been achieved, except for a fake success riding on the forced surrender of thousands? According to Duterte, the declaration of martial law will facilitate the end of all of Mindanao’s problems. Again a grand promise, akin to his pronouncements on the war on drugs, contractualization, among others. As it is, martial law has facilitated rights violations by an emboldened state security force. This government is truly ineffective, only adept at manufacturing and twisting numbers, and conjuring more lies to justify repression and fascism,” concluded Palabay.