On the Congress sessions extending martial law in Mindanao

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It was rigged from the start. The Special Session of Congress today, July 22, on President Duterte’s call to extend the martial law declaration in Mindanao to December 31, 2017 had only one intended outcome – to rubberstamp the Congress’s imprimatur on the legality of the declaration’s extension.

The public is witness to the absolutely nauseating, disgusting and twisted logic of national security officials like Eduardo Año, Delfin Lorenzana and Hermogenes Esperon justifying the virtues of martial law. It was almost like a recording of previous statements of Ferdinand Marcos and his military generals during the first martial law period. They peddled the big fat lies over and over again – that Duterte’s martial law is different; that there are no human rights violations under martial law; that if there are violations, the perpetrators will be punished; that it is needed to secure the public, that the terrorist threats, whoever they are from, should be quelled; and that the ML extension is to support the “great and heroic” soldiers and the business climate in the region.

So it is worthwhile to repeatedly contest these lies, lest these pervade as sordid truths, especially in the age of “alternative truths.”

1. Duterte’s martial law can never be different from Marcos’s martial law. The factual bases of both declarations have been proven as outright lies, if not products of the military’s creative imagination. As long as the main implementers are the inherently fascist institutions and mercenaries in the military and police, any militarist action such as martial law will only redound to further violation of people’s rights.

2. On July 19, Karapatan submitted to Secretary Silvestre Bello III as head of the Duterte government panel to the NDFP peace talks and to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Jose Luis Gascon a letter urging them to investigate on the human rights violations during the martial law period in Mindanao, specifically on the cases of at least ten (10) victims of extrajudicial killings, 335 victims of illegal arrests, and more than 400,000 victims of internal displacement largely due to military airstrikes in Marawi City and several provinces in Mindanao. On that same day, Karapatan Southern Mindanao submitted complaints on at least 56 cases of illegal arrest and detention and six cases of political killings documented under Presidential Proclamation 216 to CHR Region 11 office.

Before that, there have been numerous complaints aired before the public – through statements of human rights organizations published by the media, through testimonies of victims like the Surigao del Sur Lumad and the striking workers of Shin Sun Tropical Inc., through countless features on internally displaced persons of several media outlets, especially alternative media groups. Defense Secretary Lorenzana dismissed them all as just mere propaganda of “communist fronts.” The CHR, to date, has done nothing.

3. General Eduardo Año has zero credibility in dispelling fears and allegations that perpetrators of human rights violations under Duterte’s martial law will be dealt with. He is one of the living proof that the military gets away with its crimes at all times, with his highly questionable exoneration from the Jonas Burgos disappearance case aided by then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and former Pres. Benigno Aquino III. It doesn’t really matter if the AFP had one million human rights modules or if they had thousands of soldiers and police trained on human rights and international humanitarian law, because the fact remains that the military and police are the primary purveyors of human rights violations in the country. The modules and trainings are just for show, for money or for nothing.

4. A government that uses military hubris to allegedly quell terrorism or armed revolutionary rebellion is one that is most afraid of a people, driven to terrorism or rebellion by years of oppression, exploitation, poverty, and mendicancy to foreign interests. Securing the public is the least of their interest.

5. Lawmakers and executive government officials who are more concerned with mercenaries and big business interests than with the plight of the thousands of bakwit, the people killed and arrested by the military and police are not genuine representatives of the people.

Karapatan vehemently condemns the extension of martial law in Mindanao. We will march with the Filipino people on Monday to present the People’s State of the Nation Address in the streets all over the country. We will continue to struggle alongside the Filipino people against all forms of fascist projects and for a just and lasting peace.

— Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights

Watch video of Congress voting on Martial Law extension

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