By OLGA LAUZON
BAGUIO CITY — Progressive groups in the Cordillera, Ilocos and Cagayan Valley regions condemned the terrorist attacks by the Maute group and called for the lifting of Martial Law in Mindanao.
While the groups denounce the attacks by the Maute Group, they said that imposing Martial Law over the whole of Mindanao is extreme and unnecessary. The groups maintain that the country’s previous experience under an authoritarian rule only resulted to gross violations of civil rights and liberties, and its imposition now will see no difference.
In an indignation rally, May 26, multi-sectoral groups from Metro Baguio expressed why Martial Law will not quell the scourge in Marawi City. Grassroots organization Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance (CPA) warned that with the declaration of Martial Law, comes with heightened incursion against the human rights of civilians, especially national minorities.
“Declaring martial law is an overkill since the government has the means to resolve the Marawi crisis without resorting to placing Mindanao under complete military rule and suspending civil liberties,” said CPA deputy secretary-general Santos Mero.
“In doing so, it placed the lives of many civilians under greater threat, not only because of the Maute groups’ presence, but because the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) itself does not adhere to the principles of human rights,”
Last April, the AFP launched several attacks to communities here in Cordillera under the guise of “counter-insurgency operations” and all-out war against the New Peoples’ Army. The AFP ransacked houses, converted schools into barracks, bombed farmlands, displaced communities and used civilians as human shields.
CPA fears that the already dire human rights situation in Mindanao will only intensify especially with the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus.
On May 25, just a few days after the declaration, there were already reports of 30 women, composed of Lumad, Moro and lay people gathered for a Capacity Building and Ecological Seminar, placed under interrogation by the 6th Marine Landing Battalion Team in Sultan Kudarat. On the same day, the mass arrest of around 250 individuals was reported in Davao City.
Furthermore, CPA condemned the “militarist approach to pressing issues in the country” which they said wreaks of “warmongering retired generals” in President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet.
Meanwhile, Bayan Ilocos condemns the appointment of General Eduardo Año as Martial Law administrator, who according to them, has a long history of human rights violations including the June 2015 Paquibato massacre where three lumad and peasants were killed, and the abduction of Jonas Burgos.
Demand for truth
The Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) demands for the truth about the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)-affiliated Maute Group and its connections. Despite several international reports linking ISIS to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States of America, militarists in the administration still welcome the defense support of USA should the conflict escalate outside of Mindanao.
“What is the real intent of Generals Delfin Lorenzana, Eduardo Año and Hermogenes Esperon for this solution to supposedly address a small group? What is the role of the US government, which has a military base inside Marawi City, has economic interests in the island, in the country and the whole Asia-Pacific region?”
Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez warned that “fascists and US stooges” Lorenzana, Año and Esperon are the greatest threats to the people of Mindanao as they are fanning terror to justify attacks against the people.
Local chapters of Kabataan Partylist, National Union of Students in the Philippines, College Editors Guild of the Philippines and Masakbayan in Cagayan Valley, said that on top of their everyday struggle for food, life and self-determination, the Moro people are even more burdened by threats to their lives because of urban militarization and aerial bombings.
Luke Bagangan of Anakbayan-Cordillera in a statement, questioned the basis of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao. “The fact that the AFP earlier declared that the situation in recently attacked Marawi City is already under government’s full control, it just placed the necessity of Martial Law in grave question,” Bagangan said.
Struggle and unite for peace
For many of the groups, now is not the time for divisiveness. They challenge the general public to stand with the people of Marawi City and Mindanao as a whole, and to unite to achieve peace based on justice.
In light of the burning of the Dansalan College, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) condemned the assaults on public service institutions. Dansalan College was founded in 1950, and welcomed people of different religions. 95% of the students are Muslim and 80% of the staff is Christian. The institution was a reflection of “the importance and impact of interfaith relations”.
They urge the public “not (to) fall into the trap of Islamophobia” and not treat the conflict in Marawi as a religious war.
CHRA, meanwhile, asked for support for the Bangsamoro people who have been institutionally discriminated as national minorities, and whose situation could aggravate with the current crisis. They further call on for state security forces to “remember that your obligation is to defend and protect the people. You have every duty to defy unjust orders that harm the interest of the poeple.”
The progressives of Northern Luzon collectively called for a more responsible approach to addressing the torment caused by the Maute Group, rather than retaliating at the expense of the rights and safety of the people.
The groups reiterated that as long as widespread poverty, landlessness and oppression – conditions in which the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf thrive on – remain unresolved and unaddressed, war and violence will persist.
Should the administration push forth with expanding and prolonging Martial Law, the groups warned that the resistance of the people ousted the Marcos dictatorship before, and united they could retaliate against any fascist attack. # nordis.net