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Anti-martial law protests in Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (UCAN): Church people joined advocates and tribal groups in protest marches in the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, and Butuan in Mindanao, the Philippines, on October 23, to demand the lifting of martial law, which Congress has twice extended. It is in effect until December 31.
 
However, activists under the banner of the Movement Against Tyranny said martial law had increased incidents of human rights abuses, such as arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings, by security forces.
 
Movement spokesperson, Rolando Abejo, said the people of Mindanao “don’t need martial law” which was imposed on May 23 last year by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, after alleged Islamic State gunmen seized the city of Marawi.
 
The resulting five-month conflict resulted in the displacement of close to half a million people, about 70,000 of whom remain in temporary shelters.
 
“What our people need are affordable food, land to be tilled by our farmers, and jobs,” Abejo said.
 
Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Philippine Independent Church, complained that even Churches and Church people are not spared from the “cunning ways” of Duterte.
 
He said attacks on his Church, such as the arrest of one of its bishops last year, spurred clergy from several dioceses to join the anti-martial law protests.
 
The Protestant bishop said Duterte has been trying “to cow and silence (Church people) on their social ministries and prophetic advocacies in favour of those who are in the margins.”
 
Ryan Lariba of the group, New Patriotic Alliance, estimated that about 15,000 people joined the marches across Mindanao.
 
In a statement, the group said the government has turned the lands of Mindanao into killing fields with the slayings of farmers, workers and tribal people.
 
The day before the island-wide protest, tribal groups protested outside government offices in Cagayan de Oro to call for action on issues facing tribal communities.
 
They called for genuine agrarian reform and a stop to so-called development projects in tribal communities.

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