End martial law in Mindanao now! -Karapatan

The martial law proclamation in Mindanao is set to lapse on December 31 this year. The military and several lawmakers have already floated the idea of further extending martial law to another six months. AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. has expressed that he will recommend martial law’s extension to the President. This was followed by a resolution filed by Iligan City representative Frederick Siao on November 14, 2018, urging the extension of military rule in Mindanao for another six months. 
 
 
The AFP is equating martial law to so-called positive improvements in the economy, while the Iligan representative cited the upcoming 2019 elections, among others. The presence of the New People’s Army and armed Moro groups in the region are also cited as basis for an extension.

“To suggest or imply that martial law should be extended for tourism and commerce is ludicrous. Lest these officials forget, we are supposedly a democratic country that upholds civilian supremacy. We certainly cannot further extend martial law in Mindanao simply on the basis of inviting in tourists and businesses. There was never a legitimate basis to continuously subject the people of Mindanao under military rule,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

The Karapatan official added that “the NPA have existed for almost five decades, and so have other armed Moro groups, yet martial law and other militarist solutions were proven to be a failure in addressing the root causes of the armed conflict. In effect, government forces have only aggravated the human rights situation in the country. If just and lasting peace is what this government truly wants, then the peace negotiations should be their course of action, not martial law extension.”

As of September 2018, Karapatan has documented 196 victims of political killings, mostly in Mindanao. Rights violations have worsened as more communities are militarized and the lives and welfare of civilians are set aside. 

Palabay cautioned against “ulterior motives” that might be the real reason behind attempts to extend martial law in Mindanao. “We must remember that aside from rights violations during the time of Marcos’ martial law, Marcos and his cronies also took advantage of military rule for corruption and dubious deals. By insisting to extend martial law in Mindanao despite the lack of a basis as stipulated in our Constitution, the government is basically saying that it needs a less transparent government -- one that does not include the checks and balances of a fully functioning democratic institution -- to fast-track questionable economic projects and cover-up rights violations at the expense of the Filipino people,” she added, citing the government’s deals with China including the Davao River Bridge and the Mindanao Railways.

“Congress is dominated by Duterte allies, and an extension will likely be approved. However, along with the Mindanaoans and the Filipino people, we will not cease to expose the gross violations that martial law has enabled against peasant, indigenous and Moro communities in Mindanao. End martial law in Mindanao!” Palabay ended.