*The Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties’ (M4CL) manifesto of unity read during the 7th Mindanao Human Rights Summit on February 23-24, 2018 in Davao City. M4CL is a broad formation of church-based and cause-oriented organizations that upholds human rights and civil liberties.
The human rights situation in Mindanao has become a cause for grave concern under the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the first Mindanaoan to be elected to the highest office of the land. Human rights groups recorded 126 cases of extra-judicial killings of farmers and indigenous peoples, many reported killings in relation to the anti-illegal drugs drive, 428 cases of trumped-up charges, and forcible evacuations of thousands of Moro and indigenous peoples (IP) communities due to military operations to date.
Government institutionalized policy measures that repress civil liberties in Mindanao. President Duterte issued on May 23, 2017 Proclamation No. 216 which put the whole of Mindanao under Martial Law and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus. Congress granted President Duterte’s request to extend Martial Law twice: the first on July 22, 2017 beyond the 60-days set by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and the second on December 13, 2017 for a one-year extension until December 31, 2018. These moves contravene the country’s Constitution and are reminiscent of the reasoning of Martial Law under the dictator Marcos that put the country under authoritarian rule in the guise of going after terror groups and crushing rebellion.
Although Marawi City has long been declared liberated, militarist rather than civilian agenda is still at play. The construction of another military camp is being prioritized over the aspirations of the displaced to return to their homes. Civilian complaints of looting and other violations are not being adequately investigated. Impatience and dissatisfaction with rehabilitation efforts are mounting; fears that these would be dominated by business and non-Meranaw interests remain unaddressed.
Apprehensions about Marawi and Lanao del Sur cannot be ignored as these occur against a backdrop of continuing uncertainty over the passage of an acceptable Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is important to the continuing implementation of the Bangsamoro peace process and the prevention of violent extremism.
The President also signed Proclamations 360 and 374. The former terminated the peace talks between the Government and the National Democratic Front while the latter tagged the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New Peoples Army as terrorists. From experience, the cessation of the peace process and the escalation of war create conditions that encourage massive human rights violations.
The renewed government campaign against illegal drugs has come to be viewed as a wholesale violation of the rights to life and due process of the poor. The figures bear out that the poor in urban and increasingly rural areas of Mindanao are being conveniently targeted. Disturbingly, the same tactics used in the drug war are being used to harass political activists.
It is imperative for Mindanaoans to increase vigilance against repressive measures that curtail peoples’ rights and freedoms.
Many Mindanawons supported the rise to power of the current administration and are compelled to hold it accountable and ensure that it delivers on its promise of change. Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines will not be justly transformed if human rights are ignored and debased.
Mindanaoans have longed for just peace for decades. But it will continue to be elusive in an environment where rights and freedoms are not respected.
We are called to help and stand by those who are most vulnerable to the repressive effects of Martial Law, particularly Moro and IP communities, community leaders, and peoples organizations.
For the above reasons, we commit to a broad alliance of individuals, organizations, human rights defenders, and religious institutions under the Mindanaoans for Civil Liberties (M4CL).
We pledge to promote political and civil rights, particularly the rights to life, liberty, free expression, peaceful assembly, and other fundamental freedoms through awareness-raising and education, mobilization, and advocacy at many levels.
We will uphold and defend the rights and freedoms of Mindanaoans in light of the continuing enforcement of Martial Law and other repressive measures.
We will build a constituency of men and women coming from leaders and workers of churches and religious groups, Moro and Lumad leaders, lawyers, educators, professionals, artists, writers, journalists, development workers, and other personages.
We owe these commitments to the Mindanaoans of today and the coming generations. We do not want the Mindanaoans of tomorrow to consider this period as a time of massive historical injustice and be judged as not having done enough to secure for them their free, peaceful and bountiful future.
We want coming Mindanaoans to proudly look back to our unity and concerted work as consistent with and celebrating the values, traditions, and aspirations of the peoples of Mindanao.
End Martial Law in Mindanao!
Uphold Civil Liberties and Human Rights!
No to Charter Change!
Yes to Peace Process!