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More violations if martial law is extended

/ 05:10 AM December 07, 2017

With martial law still in full effect in Mindanao, the human rights situation has already worsened due to the continued implementation of Duterte’s counter-insurgency program, “Oplan Kapayapaan.”

This is all the more compounded by the termination of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and President Duterte’s recent verbal threats. With Malacañang poised to extend martial law in Mindanao and to possibly expand it nationwide, the situation is set to become more urgent and dangerous.

On Nov. 26, 2017, 12 lumad communities composed of at least 244 families from Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, and Barangay Buhisan, San Agustin in Surigao del Sur, evacuated due to military operations in the area. Karapatan Caraga reported initially that 406 students and 51 teachers from nine lumad schools were affected by the incident. The evacuees are currently in Simowao, Diatagon. On Dec. 1, 2017, a food blockade was imposed in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga, as the 75th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army refused entry to the local government and other humanitarian groups.

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On Nov. 30, 2017, “Wanted” posters bearing the pictures and names of leaders of progressive organizations in Davao, including Karapatan’s Hanimay Suazo and Bayan’s Sheena Duazo, were once again circulated. The leaders, collectively known as “Haran 15,” faced trumped-up charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention. The case was filed in 2015 after human rights advocates helped in  the transfer of lumad evacuees at the Haran Evacuation Center run by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines. The case has been dismissed in July 2016.

The Duterte administration seems to be concocting more and more maneuvers to further curtail people’s rights. From the use of the Human Security Act of 2007, the formation of the Inter-Agency Committee on Legal Action, the threats of crackdown on progressive groups, to possible extension of martial law, Mr. Duterte is hell-bent on finding ways to usurp power and destroy all mechanism for checks and balances, thus laying the pretext for a full-blown dictatorship.

The military will have greater powers under martial law, thus it is absurd that its extension depends on the institution that will most benefit from it. If we gave all the decision-making to the military, the level of state-perpetrated violations will undoubtedly intensify. The Armed Forces has in its top ranks known human rights violators rewarded for perpetrating rights abuses. It is an institution that perpetuates impunity and merely uses human rights and “security sector reform” initiatives as a moneymaking scheme, without any substantial change to their orientation and framework.

CRISTINA PALABAY, secretary general, Karapatan, Quezon City

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TAGS: Cristina Palabay, Inquirer letters, Karapatan, Marawi siege, Mindanao martial law, NDFP, Philippine peace talks, Rodrigo Duterte
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