Church leaders decry extending military rule in Mindanao

July 24, 2017 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

Manila, July 24, 2017: Church leaders in the Philippines have decried a decision by lawmakers to extend martial law across the southern region of Mindanao until the end of 2017.

In a joint session of Congress on July 22, legislators voted to approve the request of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to extend military rule in the southern Philippines where security forces continue to battle Islamic State-inspired terrorist gunmen.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23 shortly after gunmen claiming to have links with the so-called Islamic State occupied the city of Marawi, resulting in armed clashes that have displaced more than 300,000 people after two months of fighting.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga, however, said the decision to extend martial law showed that the government “did not achieve anything” when it first placed Mindanao under military rule.

Martial law is not an urgent need, said the prelate, adding that what is most urgent is to secure the country’s borders, maintain security, and rehabilitate the city of Marawi.

“To continue with martial law is to increase the humanitarian crisis in Marawi,” he said. “What is happening in Marawi is not a just and fair reason to impose martial law,” Bishop Santos said.

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said he was disappointed with the lawmakers, saying that even the bishop of Marawi believes that the extension of martial law is “not necessary.”

“The situation will get worse because of the abuses that will surely be committed in the name of martial law,” said Bishop Bastes. “Our economy is already going down because of martial law,” he said.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan said it was expected that legislators would support the president’s decision to extend the duration of military rule.

The prelate said he supports “limited martial law only in some places in Mindanao…. I oppose martial law for the entire country,” he said, adding that it would send “bad signals to the international community.”

Benedictine nun Mary John Mananzan said the government could fight terrorists without martial law.

She said Duterte’s declaration of martial law “seems to be following the path that [former dictator Ferdinand] Marcos’ martial law took.” She said threats and dangers have been exaggerated.

“It really is an intensification of the move towards authoritarianism,” said Sister Mary John.

Sister Susan Bolanio, executive director of the non-government Hesed Foundation in Mindanao, said the extension of martial law is “unwanted.”

“We trust the capability of the military and the police to suppress the current actions of the enemies of the state even without martial law,” said the nun.

Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, retired prelate of Kalookan, said one should understand the situation in Mindanao and what martial law is all about “to be able to make an objective comment.”

Aileen Villarosa of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines said her group was “greatly disturbed” by Congress’ decision.

“We are greatly concerned about the communities that would be affected by extending martial law,” said Villarosa, adding that even before it was introduced, rural communities in Mindanao “had already been subjected to grave human rights violations.”

“Now that civil authority can easily be undermined by military power, what protection do they have left?” she said.

Last week, Duterte said communist rebels and their supporters would be the government’s next target after security forces have crushed the terrorists in Marawi.

– ucan

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