Catholic bishops from Mindanao has said the implementation of martial law must be temporary even as they did not express protest to President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration meant to quell terrorist groups in the restive south.
"We have many fears. But, at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of martial law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that martial law must be temporary," Cotabato City Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said in a statement released Friday.
Duterte had placed Mindanao under martial law on Tuesday night after clashes between government troops and the terrorist Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups erupted. The fighting entered its fifth day on Saturday.
"We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction," he said.
Speaking on behalf of bishops in Mindanao, Quevedo strongly condemned terrorism, saying this was against tenets of any religion that fostered peace.
"Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility," Quevedo said.
But Quevedo said the bishops were ready to condemn martial law if there would be abuses.
"We shall condemn any abuse of Martial Law and, as in the past, will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil. Let us be vigilant," he said.
The Cardinal also called on the government to address the causes of terrorism "such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good."
He noted that peace and order problems, corruption and underdevelopment "go beyond the city limits of Marawi."
The bishops are praying for those who lost their lives and for the families displaced by the conflict in Marawi City.
"We condemn the terrorist acts that have caused the loss of so many innocent lives, the burning of homes, public buildings, including a Protestant school dormitory and a Catholic Cathedral," the statement said.
The bishops, he said, were for the safe return of teachers and church personnel, including Fr. Teresito Suganob, who were held hostage by the terrorists when the fighting flared.
"We appeal to the hostage takers to release all of them unharmed. The victims fear death but they also have the courage to give ultimate witness to Christ," Quevedo said.
At least 31 suspected terrorists have been killed in clashes since Tuesday, six of whom were believed to be fighters from Malaysia and Indonesia, Armed Forces spokesperson Restituto Padilla earlier said.
The government side has meanwhile suffered 13 deaths, including 11 soldiers and two policemen. Government has yet to release a confirmed count on civilian deaths as of this posting, but nine hostages were known to have been slain by the Maute group on Tuesday.
Yesterday, military reinforcement arrived in Marawi City as operations continued to quell the terrorists.