The inter-faith prayer rally will call for the lifting of martial law in Mindanao.
By IAN IRVING BAZARTE
MANILA – Various progressive church, human rights and urban poor groups are set to hold an inter-faith prayer rally on Independence Day, June 12, to call for an end to President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao and for a stop to human rights violations.
Dubbed the “National Day of Prayer and Action for Peace and Human Rights,” the prayer rally aims to “renew the call for peace and respect for human rights amidst the rising tide of terrorism, martial rule and impunity that threatens to rip the nation apart.” The groups will also appeal for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).
At a press conference in the Quezon City Sports Club on Tuesday, June 6, the organizers, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said the prayer rally will be held at the Andres Bonifacio Monument near the Manila City Hall at 4 PM; this will be followed by a program and various performances by artists.
Participating groups include Rise Up For Rights and Life (RISE UP), Alliance for the Advancement of Human Rights (Karapatan), National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), and Kapayapaan.
Human rights violations in Mindanao
Diamond Kalaw, a Kadamay leader and a Maranao, said that the military was behind several human rights violations, including the bombing of civilian areas.
Kilab Multimedia reported that on June 3, some 1,000 residents of six villages in Shariff Aguak and Shariff Saidona, Maguindanao province fled from heavy military bombardment in their communities. Affected villages were: Bialong, Tina, Posao, Makings, Diate and Look.
Kalaw countered denials by military that they did not conduct the bombing, which happened at 11 PM.
“Ang sabi naman ng mga taga-roon, ‘Sino ba naman ang mambobomba dito sa amin, eh narinig namin mismo yung helicopter na palipad-lipad (The residents there said: ‘Who else will bomb us but the helicopter that was flying around),’” she added.
Carlo Olalo of Kilusang Mayo Uno-Southern Mindanao Region (KMU-SMR) said that the government used the declaration of Martial Law as an excuse to break up legitimate protests and strikes by disgruntled workers in Mindanao.
He said that members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Compostela Valley and 66th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army were behind a brutal dispersal of workers on strike in Compostela Valley on June 2.
Olalo said the workers did not lift their strike in spite of military harassment on May 26, which was followed by the soldiers attack on the picket line. Three union leaders remain in detention.
“Sila pa nga yung binugbog, sila pa yung kinasuhan ng direct assault (They were the mauling victims, yet they will be the ones to be charged with direct assault),” he highlighted.
Olalo also said that the declaration of martial law gave the military “courage” to break up or disperse nonviolent protests and strikes.
Michelle Campos, daughter of Lumad leader Dionel Campos who was killed in September 2015, said the Lumad are also against the martial law declaration. She cited the increased presence of soldiers in Lumad communities following the declaration, which showed how the government essentially approved of the military’s history of abuses and human rights violations.
“Parang yung ginagawa ngayon ni Presidente Duterte, naghahanap sya ng isang ipis tapos ang ginawa niya sinunog niya yung buong bahay (It appears as if President Duterte is looking for a cockroach, and he ended up burning the whole house),” she said.
Atty. Ephraim Cortez of NUPL stressed that the Philippine Constitution guaranteed citizens’ political and civil rights such as citizens’ right to strike, freedom of expression, and access to courts even under martial law.
He also said that the actions of military and police in Mindanao proved that there were human rights violations, and called for an investigation into their actions to prevent an “atmosphere of impunity.”
Duterte, through Proclamation No. 216, declared martial law on Mindanao following the alleged Islamic State-backed Maute group’s attack in Marawi City, Lanao Del Sur, which began on May 23. Clashes between government troops and the Maute continue on its second week.
EJKs and the War on Drugs
Fr. Gilbert Billena, O.Carm, of human rights group RISE UP said that the continuing extrajudicial killings within and outside Metro Manila showed that the whole country was already in a state of martial law even without a declaration.
The latest data from the Philippine National Police say that around 3,050 drug suspects were killed in legitimate anti-drug operations since the start of the current administration’s so-called “War on Drugs” last July 2016.
Statistics also point to more than 6000 “deaths under investigation” in the same time period.
“Yung problema ng pag-kontrol nito (illegal drugs) ngayon ay pinapatong sa mahihirap. Ngayon ang mamamayan ay pinapatay at walang-habas na pinapatay, lalo na yung mga mahihirap at walang kalaban-laban (The people are the ones burdened with this [illegal drugs] problem. People are being killed, particularly the poor and defenseless),” he said.
Sister Mary John Mananzan lamented what she called a “culture of death.”
“Ito po ang nakakabagabag sa loob ng mga taong simbahan, yung buhay na napaka-great na gift ng God sa atin, ito ay parang isang sentimo na lang dito sa ating bayan (What distresses the church people most, is that life – God’s greates gift to us –now seems to be worthless),” she said.
‘Resume peace talks’
Fr. Ben Alforque, MSC, of Kapayapaan said that the declaration of martial law was an over-reaction to the Maute group’s attack on Marawi.
“Martial law as a countermeasure to terrorism is an invitation to the breakdown of the peace talks,” he said, referring to the peace talks between the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the NDFP.
The Philippine government announced on May 27 its non-participation in the fifth round of peace talks with the NDFP, after the Communist Party of the Philippines (CCP) ordered the New People’s Army (NPA) to intensify their attacks in Mindanao. The CPP said it issued the order in reaction to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s statement that the martial law in Mindanao targets all armed groups including the NPA.
The GRP panel had insisted on signing a bilateral ceasefire agreement, ahead of the prior substantive agenda in the talks, which was the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (Caser).