Ateneo heads urge govt: Act judiciously in martial law exercise


Posted at May 28 2017 11:33 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks to soldiers next to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces chief General Eduardo Año during a visit at a military camp in Iligan City, Friday. Malacanang Presidential Palace/Handout via Reuters

MANILA - The presidents of 5 Ateneo University campuses on Sunday called on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to "act judiciously" in implementing their additional powers under martial law in Mindanao.

"We call on our government officials to act judiciously as they exercise the immense range of their power. Civilian rule must always reign supreme over military rule," the Ateneo leaders said in a statement. 

The statement was signed by Fr. Karel San Juan SJ of Ateneo de Zamboanga University; Fr. Joel Tabora SJ of Ateneo de Davao University; Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin SJ of Ateneo de Manila University; Fr. Primitivo Viray Jr SJ of Ateneo de Naga University; and Fr. Roberto Yap SJ of Xavier University- Ateneo de Cagayan. 

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last Tuesday after terrorist groups torched several building in Marawi, clashed with state troops and abducted some civilians. 

Without elaborating, the President said his martial rule would be "harsh," similar to that of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who placed the entire country officially under martial law from 1972 to 1981.

Government soldiers stand on guard while manning a checkpoint in Marawi City, Saturday. Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

The heads of the Ateneo schools said they support offensives against extremists, and trust Duterte's promise that martial rule will be limited and temporary. 

But the group also warned that an "unrestrained" martial law will only create more problems. 

"A Martial Law limited in scope, enforced with discipline and restraint, with respect for the Constitution and the inviolability of human rights, can solve specific problems. An unrestrained Martial Law, one that keeps its decisions and movements quiet and secret from its citizens, unconcerned with human dignity, will only compound the problem it seeks to solve," they said. 

"We have more than a decade of reasons to be wary of Martial Law. We have seen what happens when every dissenting voice is labeled as seditious, when every inquiring mind is denounced as unpatriotic. We are not supporting terrorists by remembering our scars and learning from our pain," the Ateneo leaders added. 
They urged the government to continue forging peace in Mindanao, and aim for the "very roots of our temptation to terror and violence." 

They also called on the public to "remain vigilant, to hold our officials accountable for their actions, to demand to know and to be told the truth at all times."

The skirmishes in Marawi erupted after a failed attempt to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isinilon Hapilon, who is said to be the leader of the Islamic State in Southeast Asia.

The military said the fighting has killed 31 suspected terrorists, 11 soldiers and 2 policemen, as of Saturday. 

There has yet to be a confirmed count of civilian deaths, but the Maute group allegedly killed 9 people last Tuesday and 8 bakers over the weekend.