CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 February 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Martial law extension in Mindanao mooted

MANILA (UCAN): “Tribal schools have been attacked by the military on the basis of martial law and the unfounded claim that these schools are communist fronts,” Rius Valle, a spokesperson for the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network said, responding to indications from the Philippine military on November 14 that it is keen to extend martial law period in Mindanao until the end of 2019.
 
Valle said that martial law in Mindanao has “deprived tribal children of their rights and freedoms” and that tribal schoolchildren would have to live through another year of harassment and displacement if military rule was to continue.
 
The SOS refuted government claims that police or military personnel had committed no human rights abuses since martial law was introduced 17 months ago. 
 
The network claimed it has documented 535 attacks on tribal schools affecting 2,460 schoolchildren and teachers in the past year.
 
Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, declared martial law in Mindanao shortly after Islamic State-inspired gunmen occupied the city of Marawi in May last year. The conflict ended after five months of fighting.
 
The Philippine Congress has extended martial law twice at Duterte’s request which cited continuing threats from terrorist groups. The last extension remains in effect until the end of the year.
 
In the November 14 announcement, a general and chief-of-staff of the Philippine Armed Forces, Carlito Galvez Jr., said the military would recommend the extension of martial law, citing the result of military assessments and reported favourable feedback from local officials in the region.
 
“We saw that most local government units were recommending the extension of martial law,” the general said, adding that most governors in Mindanao wanted martial law extended in their areas.
 
Military spokesperson and brigadier general, Edgard Arevalo, said the armed forces will “more likely” recommend the extension of martial law, which he said has resulted in the “successful conduct of security operations against various threats.”
 
Arevalo said the military has not received any “documented complaint” about military abuses during the martial law period.
 
“How about the killing of two tribal students and eight members of parent-teacher-community associations of schools? What about the 111 cases involving trumped up charges and illegal arrests of teachers and parents?” Valle asked in rebuttal.
He said extending martial law was not about ensuring peace and order, “but pacifying and clearing out communities for the expansion of large-scale mining and agri-plantations in Mindanao.”
 
Valle said, “They are pushing for business over services, foreigners over the Filipinos and tribal people,” adding that people in Mindanao should resist any extension of martial law.
 
The December 2017 extension was met with much criticism at the time. Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila called out Congress for being “subservient” and warned: “Once one has tasted power, it is hard to say it is enough. This is true for Duterte, this is true for the police and this is true for the armed forces.”

More from this section