Martial law meant open season for killings, rights abuses in Mindanao

Progressive groups led by Barug Katungod Mindanao and Karapatan staged a protest rally in front of the Department of National Defense (DND) on December 6, 2017, to oppose the extension of martial law in Mindanao and raise the issue of numerous rights violations perpetrated by the military, in line with the said declaration and the Duterte regime’s counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

“Duterte is not just a rambling, crazed lunatic, his words and threats have severe implications on the ground, especially for peasant and indigenous communities already subjected to militarization. He has made Mindanao and the rest of the country into a killing field, instigating an open season for killings and rights violations, through his counter-insurgency program and martial law declaration,” said Ryan Amper of Barug Katungod Mindanao during the protest.

Since the declaration of martial law on May 23, 2017, human rights group Karapatan recorded at least 29 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Mindanao – 15 were in the Southern Mindanao Region. Many of the victims were members of local peasant organizations and affiliates of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) who were targeted for their local campaigns for genuine agrarian reform and against militarization. Karapatan also documented 15 cases of torture, 23 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 58 victims of illegal arrest and detention, 335,686 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings.

The rights group also attested to the forced evacuation of 401,730 individuals; 16,612 were documented outside of the Marawi siege, mostly in the regions of Caraga, Southern Mindanao, and SOCKSARGENDS. Most recent cases were the November 28, 2017 evacuation of at least 2,169 Lumad from 12 communities in Lianga and San Agustin, Surigao del Sur due to operations of the 75th IBPA, and the displacement of 21 Banwaon families, composed of 139 individuals, from the villages of San Pedro, Binicalan, and Mahagsay in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur on December 4, 2017, due to military operations of the 26th IBPA.

Amper cited the recent massacre of 8 Lumad in Brgy. Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato by composite elements of the 27th and 33rd IBPA. “It is only a decaying system desperate for power that breeds such gross violations. The massacre of 8 people is unforgivable, an incident that reflects the depth of State terrorism of the Duterte regime,” he added.

“Martial law and State fascism are two sides of the same coin; one is crucial to the other. Martial rule is an instrument of fascists to usurp more power, curtail more rights, and perpetrate more injustice and impunity. We have seen the devastating impact of Marcos’ martial law, and recently, people in Mindanao have relived this horror, albeit in a more intensified and relentless manner,” Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor further said.

“Duterte is taking refuge in his imposition of martial law, along with his other fascist policies. As he isolates himself further from the people, only his tyrannical rule will keep him in power for he has made victims of the people who trusted and placed him in the presidency. The Duterte regime is brazenly, openly turning its guns against the Filipino people. This can only merit resistance. The martial law declaration in Mindanao should be lifted, not extended, nor should it be expanded nationwide,” concluded Clamor.