Military says it won't tolerate martial law abuses

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2017 03:09 PM

Soldiers ride the trucks for Butig town. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippine military on Friday said it will not tolerate abuses in the implementation of martial law in Mindanao especially after Congress approved the extension of its implementation for another year.

"Matibay po at consistent tayo sa ating paninindigan that the AFP as a mature and professional organization will not allow these violations of human rights na mangyari or gawin ng ating mga tauhan," Armed Forces Spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said in a news briefing in Malacañang.

“Mahigpit po ang tagubilin ng ating pamunuan ng AFP, ni General Rey Leonardo Guerrero, ang ating AFP Chief-of-Staff, na sa pagtupad namin ng aming mga tungkulin, lalong-lalo na sa ating pagpapatupad ng martial law, dapat po ay kikilalanin natin ang karapatang pantao at ang international humanitarian law at ‘yung po ang kasalukuyan at patuloy nating ginagawa.”

Arevalo said the military has yet to receive any formal complaint about the supposed abuses being committed by its soldiers, but he assured the public that the Armed Forces is taking a proactive stance in preventing such abuses from happening.

"Kung meron po tayong kasamahan na nakakita na anyone of us committed these violations… that could be made basis of an investigation and prosecution sa ating mga kasamahan," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte has welcomed Congress' approval of his request to extend martial law in Mindanao for another year, saying this will provide the government a “big window” in fighting terrorism.

Critics, however, said the extension of martial law in Mindanao could be a prelude to the declaration of martial law in the entire country, considering that the supposed threats posed by communist rebels were cited as new grounds for the imposition of martial rule in the south even though the communist insurgency has been existing for decades.

The President said “all options are on the table” when asked if he is indeed considering declaring martial law nationwide, adding his decision will be heavily influenced by the military.

Human rights groups also feared the extended martial law implementation would result in military abuses.

CHR TO GUARD AGAINST ABUSES

The Commission on Human Rights said while it respects the decision of the President and Congress to extend martial law in Mindanao, it will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the region in the implementation of martial law and “denounce any form of abuse.”

The CHR added there is a need to investigate allegations of looting by the military, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, military presence in camps of internally displaced persons, cases of profiling, military harassment, enforced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

"Consistent with our stance, the Commission believes that the police and military can address threats of terrorism and lawless violence without Martial Law,” the CHR said in a statement released on Friday.

"However, in respect of Legislative concurrence, we are hopeful that the intent of the extension will not be tarnished by human rights violations. It is now incumbent upon the government to observe and ensure the safeguards of the Constitution and our laws to prevent abuses.”

The CHR said it is also ready to extend all possible assistance to the government in its rehabilitation efforts.

"Through close coordination with the Regional Human Rights Commission and relevant line agencies, we will continue to provide recommendations on how to ensure fast and responsive delivery of services to affected communities aligned with human rights treaties and standards,” the CHR said.

Duterte placed Mindanao, home to 22 million people, under military rule after Islamic State sympathizers attacked Marawi last May 23.

Over 1,100 people, mostly Islamic State-inspired terrorists, were killed in the siege, which also displaced over 300,000 residents from the city considered as the center of Islamic faith in Mindanao.