Just like back in the 1970s, members of various militant groups and their support organizations are again taking their fight into the streets of Manila to denounce the government’s imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes said on Friday that different groups decided to convene in Mendiola to voice out their strong opposition in martial law.
“Today (Friday) we march to Mendiola in solidarity with the people of Marawi and Mindanao. We condemn in no uncertain terms the attacks of the Maute group against the civilians of Marawi,” Reyes said in a statement.
Other groups joining the sentiments of Bayan were people’s rights advocate Karapatan and Suara Bangsamoro, a Mindanao-based war survivor organization. The members dubbed the protest move as “Black Friday.”
During the Marcos regime, militant and leftist groups joined together in holding anti-martial law street demonstrations particularly in Mendiola and Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, only to be met by violent dispersals from law enforcers.
Reyes said the groups strongly “oppose President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law and the human rights violations it (entails).”
Bayan said that the administration should address the root causes of the armed conflict as the “only means of achieving a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.”
“The raging conflict in Mindanao is rooted in poverty, inequality, rights violations including the right to the self-determination. These will require more than just a militarist solution,” Reyes added.
“Black Friday” protesters will gather in the afternoon at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila and will be proceeding to Mendiola. Participants are encouraged to wear black t- shirts to show their condemnation of martial law. Eiriel Rain Dollete/INQUIRER.net trainee/JPV/rga
by Bea Cupin
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippine government on Friday, May 26, said foreigners were among the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group members fighting government troops in Marawi City.
“Malaysian, Indonesians from Singapore and other foreign jihadists,” said Solicitor General Jose Calida in a press conference with Palace officials and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Davao City.
Calida, in explaining why President Rodrigo Duterte had declared martial law over the entire Mindanao island region, said: “What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists who heeded the clarion call of the ISIS to go to the Philippines if they find difficulty in going to Iraq or Syria.”
AFP spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, who was also at the press conference, confirmed that of the 31 alleged Maute Group members killed in clashes with government troops, 6 had been identified as foreigners.
Martial law was declared over Mindanao on May 23, following what the military said was a surgical strike against Abu Sayyaf Group leader Isnilon Hapilon, who is believed to have pledged allegiance to ISIS. (READ: Making sense of Duterte's martial law)
Critics said the clashes in Marawi did not merit a Mindanao-wide coverage of martial law and that President Rodrigo Duterte is merely using the conflict as basis for imposing tougher measures and silencing dissent.
On May 23, at least 3 fires broke out in Marawi City. Residents have since fled the city as government troops continue to hold clearing operations. (READ: He watched Maute Group kill a cop, then he escaped)
Padilla would only confirm the presence of Indonesian and Malaysian fighters and refused to say how many of each nationality were identified as those killed in Marawi.
The AFP spokesman said the foreign nationals had been residing in the Philippines for “a long time.” “Some have been helping, teaching, aiding, and connecting [local terror groups],” he added.
But no ISIS?
Still, Padilla said that this does not equate to ISIS presence in the country. “Again, on the matter of ISIS the President emphasized that there's ISIS footprint but that does not confirm the clear presence of ISIS itself yet,” he told media in a chance interview.
But a terrorism expert warned the government against downplaying ISIS presence in the Philippines. The country is now the ISIS' epicenter in Southeast Asia, Rohan Gunaratna told Rappler. (WATCH: Admit ISIS presence in the Philippines)
Members of the Maute Group, while breakaway elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), "are no longer Mautes" and "are no longer MILF," Gunaratna explained. "They are IS, because they are operating like IS, and they have changed the name," he said. "So we have to name them by the group they call themselves." – Rappler.com
By Marvin Sy and Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star)
everal senators do not see any basis for President Rodrigo Duterte to impose martial law in the whole country as various personalities and groups have warned against possible repercussions of such a scenario. AP/Pavel Golovkin, File
MANILA, Philippines - Several senators do not see any basis for President Duterte to impose martial law in the whole country as various personalities and groups have warned against possible repercussions of such a scenario.
Under the Constitution, the President may only declare martial law in case of invasion or rebellion when public safety requires it. The effectivity of the declaration can only last for 60 days. It is also subject to review of Congress and the Supreme Court.
“I don’t see it,” Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday, referring to any basis for declaring martial law nationwide.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said while they have given their “critical and guarded support” for the martial law declaration to neutralize the Maute group in Marawi City, “there exists no Visayas-wide nor a Luzon-wide invasion or rebellion to merit the declaration of martial law as allowed under our Constitution.”
Pangilinan said what is happening in the south could be isolated terrorist acts and they would oppose any plan to place the whole country under martial law.
He said martial law is not the solution to the problems of the country such as terrorism, poverty, unemployment and low wages.
Shortly after his arrival from his abbreviated trip to Russia, the President said he might expand the coverage of martial law to the entire country if violence spills over from Mindanao to the Luzon and Visayas regions.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former military officer and critic of Duterte, said the President could not be trusted with such a decision and that the Armed Forces of the Philippines could handle the crisis in Marawi City “with or without martial law.”
“Duterte’s erratic behavior is dangerous because a president has enormous powers. So imagine we give the powers of martial law to an unstable individual like Duterte, our country will be in jeopardy,” Trillanes said.
“If we give Duterte an opening, the next (declaration) will be for the entire country. He’s conditioning the minds of Filipinos that martial law is OK – no, that’s an extreme option,” he said.
Duterte, he said, is “pushing the boundaries of our people’s patience, the different institutions and various sectors to test the limits of his powers.”
He said it appeared that Duterte was “trigger-happy” in declaring martial law in Mindanao and has been “itching” to do so, as he did not wait for the Armed Forces to give an assessment or control the situation within a manageable period.
The senator said the President has been making major decisions without prudent consultations, as in the case of announcing the rejection of aid from the European Union.
World is watching
Former national security adviser Roilo Golez, for his part, pleaded with Duterte not to declare martial law in the entire country, saying the situation may escalate and he may lose the people’s support.
“With your indulgence, I offer my unsolicited advice as a citizen and taxpayer. There is no reason for that,” Golez said.
He strongly recommended that Duterte focus all his “strong leadership skills” in resolving the crisis in Marawi City and wipe out once and for all the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute group.
“We have to show the world that the government has the decisiveness and competence to solve this crisis very quickly. The world is watching us now. Please end this crisis fast so we can go back to normal, to business as usual, which is the objective of crisis management,” Golez said.
He said returning to normalization as soon as possible is clear in the National Security Council crisis management template.
“If the crisis escalates beyond Mindanao, that would mean a failure of the management of the Marawi crisis,” Golez said.
He said since the martial law declaration covers only Mindanao, the people in general are with Duterte.
“But an expansion beyond Mindanao I dare say would not generate the same public support and could even erode your popularity in Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon and most of the Visayas,” he said.
Golez said he fully supports the President’s Mindanao martial law proclamation and prays for his success in ending the crisis quickly and decisively.
Human rights advocates expressed alarm over Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said under martial law, the military will have “control of movement, searches and arrest of detained people, suspension of writ of habeas corpus.”
“Given the lawlessness of Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ in which the police and their agents have been implicated in the cold-blooded killing of more than 7,000 suspected drug dealers and users, military restraint in Mindanao may be wishful thinking,” noted James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch.
Earlier, Duterte was quoted as saying, “Martial law is martial law, ha. It will not be any different from what the (former) president, (Ferdinand) Marcos did. I’d be harsh.”
Ross said Duterte’s casual reference to the late dictator should be alarming, especially for Filipinos who lived through martial law under the late dictator.
“For nearly 10 years, beginning in 1972, Philippine security forces carried out massive arbitrary arrests and detention, torture and countless extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances for which very few were ever punished. The country’s downward spiral continued after martial law was lifted in 1981 until Marcos was overthrown in the 1986 ‘people power’ revolution.”
However, the group said Duterte faces one significant obstacle to becoming the next Marcos: the 1987 Constitution, which places restrictions on the imposition and conduct of martial law.
“Congress can revoke the martial law proclamation by a majority vote and the Supreme Court can rule on the factual basis for its declaration. Martial law can’t be used to suspend the Constitution, the courts or the legislature, and military courts can’t try civilians if the civil courts function. Anyone arrested must be charged before a judge within three days or be released,” Ross said.
But he cautioned “words on paper are just that” and in the coming days and weeks, “(we) will see if the Philippine Congress and courts are up to the task of keeping a wildly abusive President in check. Since Duterte took office nearly a year ago, they haven’t been.”
The group Karapatan urged Duterte to lift the martial law declaration, saying the nation “has gone through the monstrosities of martial law” and repeating it will inevitably worsen rights abuses.
“There are inviolable rights that cannot be foregone, regardless of place, time or context. But despite such safeguards, martial law is a Pandora’s box that will give way to systematic rights violations. Just like in the time of Marcos, these violations will be justified under the blanket of ‘security,’ ‘protection’ and ‘national interest,’” it said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros said allowing civilians to carry firearms outside their homes to protect themselves or for whatever reason would cause more problems than solutions.
Reacting to the statement made by Duterte about having civilians, particularly those living in Mindanao, armed in public was something that should not be taken lightly.
“If you allow civilians to take up arms then you will only worsen our problems with private armies and warlords,” Hontiveros said.
“This would also add to our problem with the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, which the PNP said has contributed to the rising cases of firearms-related crimes and violent incidents,” she added.
Rather than helping address the problems, Hontiveros said that such declarations by the President would only do more harm.
“His chopsuey declarations and proclamations create more chaos than order,” Hontiveros said.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Gregorio Honasan, Sonny Angara and Francis Escudero were not as alarmed and would like to wait for further developments.
Like Hontiveros, however, Escudero cautioned Duterte against allowing civilians in Mindanao to openly carry their licensed firearms to defend themselves. – With Rhodina Villanueva
Leftist groups warned on Thursday of more extrajudicial killings following the declaration of martial law over the whole of Mindanao, with President Rodrigo Duterte continuing to insist that the Maute Group, whose members are holed up in Marawi City, were involved in the illegal drug trade.
BY KENNETH HARE HERNANDEZ/The Manila Times
Mayor Joseph Estrada on Wednesday placed Manila under tight watch and ordered the police to set up checkpoints and conduct more patrols to ensure that the violence in Marawi City will not reach the city.
Estrada directed 4,600 Manila policemen to increase their patrol around Malacañang Palace and other government offices and major installation that could be targeted by extremist groups.
“To the Manileños, please rest assured that our law enforcement units are on guard to protect our city,” he said. “Remain calm but be vigilant. You have nothing to worry about as of this moment.”
Estrada directed Manila Police District Director Joel Coronel to use all available assets to preserve peace and order and thwart any attempts by lawless elements to sow chaos or terror.
Coronel said Malacañang is ringed with security checkpoints. Foot and mobile patrols are being held in coordination with the Presidential Security Group (PSG).
“We are on full alert to prevent the incident from Marawi City to spill over in Metro Manila. There might be diversionary actions so we have to prepare for it,” he said.
Coronel added that 300 more policemen will be deployed to secure the observance of the holy month of Ramadan which will start on May 27.
Anti-riot policemen were also stationed at the US Embassy and at the Supreme Court in Ermita to counter possible mass actions by militant organizations.
Terror attacks had hit the city of Manila in the past. In December 2000, terrorists bombed Plaza Ferguson in Malate and an LRT-1 coach that left 22 people dead.
Recently, three bombing incidents occurred in Quiapo but authorities said the explosions were not terror-related.
Makati Mayor Abby Binay also on Wednesday called on her constituents to remain calm and vigilant amid the conflict in Marawi City and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“It should be business as usual in the country’s financial center,” Binay said.
The mayor expressed solidarity with those affected by the recent violence in Marawi.
“Our prayers go out to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao,” she said.
The mayor ordered the Makati Police Department to undertake precautionary measures to keep Makati and its people safe.
“I am directing the Makati police to take the needed steps to ensure the safety of the city and its citizens,” she said.
The military declares facilities previously occupied by local terror groups – including the Amai Pakpak Medical Center – 'cleared of Maute presence'
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines – Up to 78 civilians were held captive by the Maute Group inside the Amai Pakpak Medical Center on Tuesday, May 23, when the local terrorist group occupied the public hospital.
All were rescued, according to the military with the hospital declared "cleared of Maute presence" on Wednesday, May 24.
"At 3:00 pm today, the Amai Pakpak Hospital where Maute members accordingly occupied and held captive some 78 civilians was already declared cleared of Maute presence," said Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command.
More civilians were rescued in other facilities attacked by the Maute Group on Tuesday, estimated to be a total of 120 civilians.
Others were not as lucky. At least 4 residents, including a priest, were reportedly taken by the terrorist group. (READ: Marawi bishop: Priest, 4 others held hostage by Maute)
The Maute Group killed a cop and a security guard, and then took hostages – 8 patients, 49 construction workers, and 21 hospital staff – on Tuesday when they forced hospital staff to treat two of their wounded colleagues.
Rappler sources said they left the hospital late evening on Tuesday as clashes with the military raged.
In Dansalan College, one of the buildings where fire broke out, they rescued up to 42 teachers who were trapped. It was also declared "clear of Maute presence" Wednesday afternoon.
Five soldiers and 13 members of the terror groups were killed in the clashes, based on military reports. Up to 31 soldiers were wounded.
Clashes erupted on Tuesday as the military moved to hunt down Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was spotted in Marawi City.
Hapilon, who reportedly has direct links to international terrorist group Islamic State (ISIS), joined the Maute Group in Lanao Del Sur supposedly to establish an Islamic caliphate in Central Mindanao. – Rappler.com