CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Martial law in Mindanao extended a third time

MANILA (UCAN): The Mindanao, the Philippines, and its approximately 25.5 million population will remain under military rule for another 12 months, or until the end of 2019 after joint session of Congress on approved a request by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to extend martial law across the region on December 12.
 
Voting 235 in favour, 28 against, and with one abstention, the country’s senators and congressmen also extended the government’s ability to arrest “persons of interest” without a warrant until 31 December 2019.
 
Duterte had asked Congress for the martial law extension, claiming that terrorist groups were still recruiting members and carrying out violent acts in Mindanao.
 
Congress has already extended martial law twice this past year due to reported violence in the southern region.
 
Human rights groups warned of abuses being committed by soldiers with Father Rolando Abejo of the Philippine Independent Church, regional head of the Movement Against Tyranny in northern Mindanao, saying that in his area alone, at least 567 people have received threats and were subjected to harassment and intimidation by soldiers.
 
He also claimed that at least four people were killed, another four targets of enforced disappearances, and 43 more victims of illegal arrest and detention.
 
He said most of the targets of military harassment are people in communities where the government wants to set up mining and plantation projects.
 
“Notably, the victims are farmers and indigenous peoples whose lands are red-flagged and whose communities are vilified as rebel members or supporters,” Father Abejo said.
 
“The (government) shows no sign of remorse and is hell-bent on taking down all its ‘enemies’ at the expense of human rights,” he said.
 
Legislators from across Southeast Asia have warned that extending martial law will put human rights at risk in Mindanao.
 
“The continued imposition of martial law threatens to facilitate a culture of impunity,” said Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament.
 
Santiago, who is chairperson of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, called on Philippine authorities to conduct effective investigations into all allegations of human rights violations.
 
He also noted a “marked increase in human rights violations” in Mindanao over the last year and a half.
 
The Philippine military, meanwhile, welcomed the “overwhelming vote of confidence” from legislators and the “strong support of the Filipino people” for the martial law extension.
 
In a statement, defense secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said the military “will continue to uphold its mandate of … protecting the democratic way of life of our people, with full respect for human rights, international humanitarian law, and the primacy of the rule of law.” 
 
Meanwhile, in response to the extention of martial law, the Communist Party of the Philippines urged its armed wing, the New People’s Army, “to mount tactical offensives across the country.”
 
The statement said, “All units must exert all possible effort to punish the worst fascist units and officers of the (military) committing grave crimes against the people.” 
 
The communists also called on the Filipino people “to further intensify their protests against martial law in Mindanao.”

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