DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Lawmakers and a Moro human rights advocate reject calls from defense officials to declare Martial Law in Sulu following the wake of the twin blasts that killed 14 in Jolo.
Bayan Muna Representative and Manobo tribal leader Eufemia Cullamat said the recommendation to impose Martial Law in Sulu may lead to abuse as what happened during Martial Law in Mindanao from 2017 to 2019.
“Declaring Martial Law is not a solution to the bombings in Jolo, Sulu because it will only be further abused by the State’s armed forces,” Cullamat said, citing cases such as arrests of farmers and Lumad leaders, and closure of Lumad schools.
She also warned that the bombings would be used by the Duterte administration to hasten the implementing rules and regulations of the anti-terrorism law, which faces questions in the Supreme Court for violations to the people’s constitutional rights.
It was Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police Chief General Archie Gamboa who recommended to place the province under Martial Law to go after the perpetrators of the bombings.
Fellow Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said that while the bombing is “condemnable and atrocious”, state security forces can track the perpetrators even without invoking the anti-terror law.
“(Now) the AFP claimed that the one responsible for the blast was the same person who got away from pursuing four Army intelligence officers in Jolo before they were gunned down on June 29 by policemen near the police station at Barangay Walled City in Jolo. It can be seen that the AFP can track down and apprehend bombers or terrorists without the terror law,” Zarate said.
The Davao-based lawmaker of Bayan Muna said that if not for the ‘mistake’ of the PNP to shoot down the AFP intelligence tracking the bombers, this situation could have been caught already.
Amirah Lidasan of the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance said putting the entire province of Sulu under Martial Law is “like punishing the whole population” for the crimes of alleged ‘suicide bombers’.
Lidasan, who has worked in monitoring human rights cases in Bangsamoro areas since 2000s, said the bombings should be put in context to deep struggles between the Moro civilians against the military.
“While we condemn the bombing in Jolo on Monday because it endangered the lives of civilians, we must understand that there’s a context why the soldiers were targeted. There is an ongoing war in Sulu, and most of the times, the military operations in Sulu have resulted to injustices including killing of civilians and passing them off as “collateral damage” or even accusing them of conniving with the Abu Sayyaf,” Lidasan pointed out.
Lidasan noted that this is not the first time a Mindanao bombing has affected Bangsamoro areas. She sees a similar pattern here with what happened in the time of President Arroyo that bombings were timed after the president is hounded by corruption charges.
She noted the bombing happened amidst growing criticism against President Rodrigo Duterte for not seriously resolving corruption in the government and addressing the problems brought by the rising number of COVID-19 infection.
“And it is also not new that this violence is used to justify the implementation of anti-people measures like the Anti-Terror Law and imposition of Martial Law,” she said.
Lidasan said there should be a thorough investigation, as the usual suspect the Abu Sayyaf group or ISIS-influenced groups have not come out to declare responsibility for the explosions.
The 11th Infantry Division, in an earlier statement, believed that the terror group Abu Sayyaf was behind the blasts as retaliatory attack following the arrest of its top leader Anduljihad “Idang” Susukan in Davao City last Aug. 13.
The AFP’s Eastern Mindanao Command said that the explosions in Jolo has no direct threat in their area, including Davao City, but they are currently in full alert.
The Bangsamoro Government released a statement condemning the “inhumane bombing”, assuring its constituents to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“At a time when the world grapples with the challenges of a global pandemic and during a period when we are just entering a new phase for the region, an act like this deserves nothing but condemnation and appropriate actions,” they said. (davaotoday.com)