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Martial Law in Mindanao: Unconstitutional and more

June 12 is a reminder to all Filipinos how sacred and fragile our freedoms and rights are —  regardless if  some  recognize that this  date is controversial, that its significance as “independence day in name only” exposes the subservience of the country to foreign interests. The marking of June 12 for many becomes a call to ”Continue the Unfinished Revolution of 1896” which is  a logical call to make after a thorough study of our Philippine history.

June 12 also becomes the backdrop and point of reflection of how our rights and freedoms can easily be threatened, disregarded, and trampled upon by the declaration of martial law in Mindanao by President Duterte. I have heard and seen how discussions turn ugly because certain people exact loyalty, criticize any dissent, and allow their passions to turn to hate and the humiliation of those who dare to stand up and say “revoke martial law” and “martial law never again.”

I say that people begin and continue to study their history, to follow the news with critical eyes and minds, to hold principled discussions and come to their own decisions. And know that when political tides change, positions and firmly-held beliefs change. In the end, it is not one man, or one group or one army that should stand supreme, it is the people and their interests and welfare, the people who make up the nation.

The proclamation of martial law in Mindanao (Proclamation No. 216) on May 23, 2017 is unconstitutional  and should be declared void. This was strongly stated by six (6) local Mindanao leaders and 12 national leaders from  government and people’s organizations in their  petition before the Supreme Court submitted last June 9, 2017 against the Respondents that included President Duterte and the military. It outlined very clearly how Proclamation No. 216 failed to provide sufficient factual basis on the existence of rebellion in the entire province of Mindanao” as well as “sufficient factual basis of its assertion that public safety requires the imposition of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire Mindanao.”

The petitioners argued that the Proclamation No. 216 is “unwarranted, unjustifiable, and wholly out of proportion to the threat posed by the Maute and Abu Sayaff groups because aside from the violence in Marawi, Respondents failed to prove sufficient factual basis that rebellion or at the very least incidents similar to that in Marawi are simultaneously occurring in the rest of the twenty seven (27) cities and four hundred twenty two (422) municipalities of Mindanao, to justify its imposition in the entire island.

The framers of the 1987 Constitution did not want a repeat of the abuse of power and sought to defend and protect the people from the abuses of martial law. Constitutional delegate Lino Brocka, a film director and a political prisoner under the Marcos martial law regime, spoke out during the deliberations at that time that amended the provisions of the declaration of martial law: “Whether martial law is declared for one day or 60 days, the fact is, when martial law is declared the very basic and fundamental human rights of the citizenry are taken away from them. It does not matter whether it is one day, one hour or 60 days.”

 Already, the military has committed human rights violations against civilians from the first day of the declaration of martial law. Aerial bombings, helicopter strafings in North Cotabato and Bukidnon resulted in 1000 residents (or 252 families) fleeing their homes.  Illegal arrests were made of at least 260 individuals in Davao who failed to show ID. Thirty (30) women in Sultan Kudarat were held and interrogated by Marines for over an hour. Even relief operations from the Dept. of Social Welfare (DSWD) are being repressed making delivery of relief packs a challenge.  Striking workers of the Shin Sun Tropical Fruits in Davao were violently dispersed and their picket line broken.  Displaced communities, our very own internal refugees, are now in shelters. According to the DSWD, in the first week of martial law, 54, 335 individuals in Marawi City have been displaced.  In Regions X and ARMM, a total of 59,149 persons were evacuated.

And these are only a few incidents. The question begs to be asked: Are ordinary people in Mindanao, women, children, peasants and workers the target of martial law?

The military and the police at the call of their Commander-in-Chief seem to have not had enough of the killings in their so-called “war on drugs” across the country. From individual drug suspects, they have now targeted whole communities using aerial strikes, bombings, strafings, check-points, arrests and detention in their so-called war against the Maute and Abu Sayaff and “other rebel groups.”

Martial law has not brought peace and order. It has brought havoc and terror. Against the people.

 To read the full text of the Petition to the Supreme Court, visit the human rights alliance KARAPATAN at  http://www.Karapatan.org