In this Dec. 12, 2018 file photo, individuals opposing the extension of martial law implementation in Mindanao hold a protest action during the joint session of Congress tackling President Rodrigo Duterte’s request for a prolonged military rule in the entire island.
The STAR/Boy Santos, File photo
CHR: Security forces can address ‘lawlessness’ in Mindanao without martial law
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - December 13, 2018 - 5:03pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights on Thursday stressed that the government can quell any security threats in Mindanao without prolonging the implementation of martial law in the entire island.

Voting 235-28-1, Congress—dominated by the allies of President Rodrigo Duterte—swiftly approved his request for a one-year extension of martial law in Mindanao Wednesday. This is the third extension granted to the chief executive by both houses.

Duterte asked for another extension of military rule in the area, claiming terrorists groups and communist rebels continue to perpetuate threat in Mindanao.

But the CHR maintained that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police can address acts of lawlessness in Mindanao without the need for martial law.

“The CHR has taken a position from the first instance when the Marawi siege had began in May 2017 that it believes that the government has the ability to exercise law enforcement powers of martial law and more so now that the martial law administrators have asserted that the Maute threat that prompted the declaration has been quelled,” CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon said.

He added: “There is a danger in ‘normalization’ of martial law.”

Lawmakers who voted against the resolution that sought to extend martial law in Mindanao and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus made the same argument during the joint session.

“Martial law is the highest form of self-preservation, it cannot be the norm. We cannot make martial law as an instrument to make governance more effective,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, who is not identified as an opposition senator, also said that martial law “cannot be the new normal” for Mindanao.

The Constitution clearly states that martial law may be declared only in cases of actual rebellion when public safety requires it.

“Martial law is never meant to be the status quo,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline De Guia said in a separate statement.

Human rights violations

Gascon, moreover, slammed the claims of martial law proponents that there has been no human rights violation during the implementation of military rule in Mindanao.

“The statements by the proponents of extension of martial law that there have been no violations of human rights are far too sweeping without acknowledging the fact that there have been reports from the ground coming from human rights defenders involving different violations such as massive number of internally displaced persons, arbitrary detention, profiling, threats, torture and killings,” he said.

According to the tally of rights group Karapatan, 88 individuals have been allegedly killed by state forces and paramilitary groups since the declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23, 2017.

At least 1,450 individuals have been illegally arrested, while around 346,940 people were affected by bombings of communities by the military, Karapatan also said.

Gascon called on martial law administrators to look into these reports.

Malacañang earlier dared individuals opposed to martial law to bring their concerns about alleged human rights violations to court.

“The president wants cases filed if there are abuses. He does not allow abuse of power. Those who were given powers should use it to protect our countrymen. They should just implement the law,” presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a radio interview over the weekend. 

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