MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday allayed fears that martial law in Mindanao under President Rodrigo Duterte Rodrigo will be abusive, saying those who criticize it are “living in the past.”
Armed Forces spokesperson Brigadier-General Restituto Padilla said people should not connect the military abuses committed under the Marcos-era martial law to the one declared by Duterte earlier this week.
“[There] are many quarters who have been raising issues already. They are people living in the past,” Padilla said in a press briefing in Davao City.
“I would like to state that under the new basis for which martial law is declared, those of the past are very different from the way it is going to be implemented today.”
Padilla sought to ease apprehensions over Proclamation No. 216, even as the president said his implementation of martial law will be no different to Marcos'.
Duterte has since vowed there will be no abuses in Mindanao under martial law. Government officials also assured the public that the 1987 Constitution, crafted after the Marcos rule, is filled with safeguards against martial law abuses.
Padilla said only those who will oppose the government should fear martial law. “Law-abiding citizens need not worry as this is aimed at lawless elements involved in rebellious activities,” he said.
He said the military will bear in mind the guidelines that will be released on the implementation of martial law. He also pointed to the Department of Defense’s memorandum that emphasizes the importance of upholding the rule of law and respecting human rights in the implementation of martial law.
Duterte’s martial law declaration has triggered fears that more law enforcers will be emboldened to commit abuses.
Human Rights Watch, a staunch critic of Duterte’s drug campaign, said the declaration "threatens to widen the scope of abuses" under the Duterte administration.
"Duterte’s martial law threatens military abuses in Mindanao that could rival the murderous ‘drug war’ in urban areas," Phelim Kine, HRW deputy director for Asia, said in a statement.
"It’s crucial that the country’s security forces abide by international law at all times and hold rights violators to account," he added.
Duterte last Tuesday placed all of Mindanao under martial law after local terrorist groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf laid siege to Marawi City.
The clashes between government troops and the domestic terrorists, who were apparently aided by foreign fighters, erupted as authorities were on their way to arrest Abu Sayyaf Isnilon Hapilon.
The United States government has raised a $5-million bounty for any information that will lead to Hapilon’s arrest.