MANILA, Philippines — A human rights organization warned on Wednesday that extending martial law in Mindanao as President Rodrigo Duterte has asked Congress to do would open the floodgates to more human rights violations in the south that will “only magnify the problems” government hopes to solve.
Duterte has formally asked Congress to meet in special session on Saturday, July 22, when the 60-day effectivity of Proclamation No. 216 lapses, and extend this to December 31. Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, soon after government forces battled extremist gunmen in Marawi.
The overwhelmingly pro-administration Congress is expected to grant Duterte’s request.
But Cristina Palabay of Karapatan predicted this would lead to “further grave violations on people’s rights and civil liberties.”
Karapatan informed Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, who chairs the government panel to peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, in a letter that from May 23 to July 16, the group had documented 10 extrajudicial killings and 335 illegal arrests in Mindanao.
The battle for Marawi, which has seen airstrikes that have devastated large parts of the city, has displaced at least 400,440 individuals or 84, 855 families.
“These violations, which are direct consequences of Proclamation 216 that worsened the impact of implementation of counterinsurgency programs, belie reports and views that there are no human rights abuses under President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law,” the letter said.
“Sinister efforts to extend the martial law period and the geographical scope of such declaration ultimately mean the furtherance of such abuses,” Palabay said. “State militarist solutions to terrorism or rebellion, at the expense of people’s rights, are not solutions at all, as these only magnify the problems at hand. What is direly needed are comprehensive economic and political reforms that address the root causes of social problems.”
Karapatan urged Duterte and the government peace panel to investigate the alleged human rights abuses “and heed the calls of affected communities, the victims and their families to lift martial law and to revoke the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus.”