MANILA- Human rights activists are forming a new movement to guard against possible martial law abuses in Mindanao.
Former Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Loretta ‘Etta’ Rosales and former House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III said the movement, which has no formal name yet, aims to protect the democratic gains after the fall of the Marcos regime as well as educate the public on their rights.
Rosales said members of their new movement are human rights activists and lawyers, including Christian Monsod, Jose Manuel Diokno, Karina David and Randy David, former Sen. Bobby Tañada, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin.
Tañada said, even before the firefight in Marawi City, President Rodrigo Duterte’s statements on martial law had already raised concerns among human rights activists.
“We feel always that martial law is the last option. Has he (Duterte) exhausted the other options before even stepping into this?” he told ANC on Thursday.
An attack by local terrorist group Maute and other Islamic militants in Marawi City prompted President Duterte to place the whole island of Mindanao under military rule.
Rosales explained that even before the President declared martial law in Mindanao, alleged extrajudicial killings were already a signal for the people to defend their rights.
“On day 1 when extrajudicial killings were taking place, that was already a signal for people to come out, defend your human rights, defend your civil liberties that we have won,” she said.
Asked to comment on the apparent public acceptance of martial law in Mindanao, Tañada noted the lack of understanding on the powers of the president.
“This is where the problem comes in, they (public) don’t understand the different powers of the president and maybe there’s lack of education,” he said.
“We would like to inform the people that there are still options available for in order to address this lawless violence that’s happening in Marawi,” he added.
Rosales, meanwhile, said "a lot of [the public] acceptance is sometimes derived from fear."
"When you go to them (public) and you talk to them one on one, then they start and rethink, then they start to open up," she said.
Authorities, including military officials, have vowed to protect human rights and not commit abuses under martial law.