LP to oppose martial law expansion, HRW fears escalation of abuses

May 26, 2017 - 9:09 AM
Government troops walk past a mosque as they mount an operation to flush out gunmen from the Maute group in Marawi City. . (photo by Romeo Ranoco, Reuters)

MANILA, Philippine — The Liberal Party vowed to oppose any attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte to expand the coverage of martial law beyond Mindanao, saying it would be illegal to do so without basis.

Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, worried that martial law “threatens to widen the scope of abuses under … Duterte.”

Lubos kaming tumututol sa blanket martial law na walang basehan, lalo pa sa mga panukalang palawakin ang bisa ng martial law sa iba pang parte ng Pilipinas. Kung walang Visayas-wide o nationwide rebellion o invasion, labag sa saligang batas ang pag deklara ng martial law at tututulan namin ito (We strongly oppose a blanket martial law without basis, especially proposals to widen its scope to other parts of the Philippines. If there is no Visayas-wide or nationwide rebellion or invasion, declaring martial law will be illegal and we will oppose this),” the LP said in a statement as it declared support for the troops battling the Maute group.

Naniniwala tayo sa kakayanan nilang mapanumbalik sa normal at payapa ang buhay sa Marawi (We believe in their capability to restore normalcy and peace to Marawi),” it said.

Citing the country’s experience under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, the LP said, “hindi kamay na bakal ang solusyon sa problema ng kahirapan, mataas na presyo ng bilihin, at kawalan ng hanapbuhay na siyang pangunahing suliranin ng karaniwang mamamayan (an iron fist is not the solution to the problems of poverty, high prices and lack of jobs that are the main concerns of ordinary citizens).”

On the other hand, Human Rights Watch said “the imposition of martial law in the midst of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ in which more than 7,000 people have been killed since June, raises grave concerns of ever-widening human rights violations in the country.”

It cited Duterte’s statement that martial law under him would be “harsh” and no different from that under Marcos, which was marked by widespread human rights abuses and massive plunder.

“Duterte’s martial law threatens military abuses in Mindanao that could rival the murderous ‘drug war’ in urban areas,” Phelim Kine, HRW deputy director said. “It’s crucial that the country’s security forces abide by international law at all times and hold rights violators to account.”

HRW also noted Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the military will have “control of movement, searches and arrest of detained people, (and) suspension of writ of habeas corpus.”

The watchdog also pointed out that, aside from the Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups, the military is also facing other threats groups and expanding its “legal authority in these conflicts opens the door to increased human rights violations against civilians, including leftist activists, indigenous leaders, and environmental activists, who have long been targets of military abuses.”

“The Philippine government has a responsibility to protect the population from armed militants, but gaining the backing of affected people means abiding by the rule of law,” Kine said. “Martial law is not a free pass for abuse.”