Martial Law in Mindanao: HR group records military abuses, HRW says ML increases abuses vs civilians, activists  

May. 28, 2017

GARRISON CITY. Scores of police officers in full combat gear patrol along Roxas Avenue in Davao City on the first day of Martial Law in Mindanao on Wednesday, May 24. President Rodrigo Duterte, through Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced the declaration on Tuesday evening after a series of clashes erupted between government troops and members of the Maute in Marawi City. (Paulo C. Rizal/

DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Human rights group Karapatan recorded a string of human rights violations perpetrated by the government soldiers days after the implementation of Martial Law in Mindanao.

A Moro resident from Baranagay Salat, President Roxas in North Cotabato was killed due to military aerial bombings, and at least two farmers were illegally arrested in Maragusan, Compostela Valley, according to Christina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, in a statement sent to media on Saturday.

Palabay attributed the military abuses to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ continuing implementation of counter-insurgency operations and in lieu of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Proclamation 216, citing pooled reports from Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, Suara Bangsa Moro and Exodus for Justice and Peace.

“The immediate palpable impact of Duterte’s martial law declaration is the more brazen violation of human rights and international humanitarian law on the ground, including the right to life and the right against warrantless arrests,” Palabay said.

On May 25, around 240 government soldiers coming from the Army’s  39th Infantry Battalion conducted aerial bombings targeting the Moro communities in Pedtobawan, Campo, Apulan, and Centro Salat of Barangay Salat, and in Libpas, Barangay Tuael in President Roxas, North Cotabato and in the villages of  Tangkulan and Anggaan, Damulog, Bukidnon.

Palabay said that while these areas were at least 100 kilometers away from Marawi City. The government troops mounted a 105 Howitzer cannons at Barangay Kisupaan, President Roxas, North Cotabato which resulted to the displacement of more than 1,000 residents or equivalent to 252 families after they fled from their homes.

On May 27, Palabay said that government soldiers from Army’s  72nd Infantry Battalion  prevented Karapatan Quick Reaction team members from providing assistance to the displaced residents.  Even the village captain of Barangay Salata, Abdillah Makalang, told the group’s QRT members could not guaranteed their security and safety because of the heavy military presence in the area.

Palabay said that Makalang confirmed that Barangay Salat resident Abdullah Mamansag was killed, when shrapnels from the artillery bombs of the military hit his spine and severed his right leg, while Norhamin Dataya, 25, and Dodong (not his real name), 14, were wounded and currently in critical condition.

“Norhamin was reportedly hit by shrapnels from artillery bombs while Dodong was hit in his chest and stomache. Dataya’s house was destroyed during the bombing. Residents reported that there were more residents injured,” Palabay said, adding that the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion went on a firing spree attacking homes of residents from Barangay Tuael, Presidnent Roxas, North Cotabato and Barangays Tangkulan and Anggaan, Damulog, Bukidnon, using their 50 caliber machine guns.

In Davao region,  two farmer members of the Unyon sa Mag-uuma nga Nakigbisog (UMANA), Nestor Quintaro and Gilbert Rodella, were illegally arrested by elements of 66th Infantry Battalion for still unknown charges, while another farmer, Eranio Lapus, remains missing, according to Karapatan.

“The Government of the Republic of the Philippines negotiating panel with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) has yet to answer numerous sumbmitted complaints on human rights violations under Duterte. At the same time, the GRP attempts to downplay these violations in the ongoing peace talks in The Netherlands by putting across issues outside the substantive agenda in the negotiations, while the situation of the people in Mindanao is worsening by the minute, with the onslaught of military operations further legitimized by the martial law declaration,” the group said.

“It would do well for the GRP to remember that in The Hague Joint Declaration, the agreement on human rights and international humanitarian law is the first substantive agenda in the peace talks. They have yet to fulfill their obligations under the CARHRIHL, so they should show sincerity first in abiding by agreements,” Palabay said.

Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch has raised grave concerns of ever-widening human rights violations in the country following the imposition of Martial Law in the midst of the government’s “war on drugs,” in which more than 7,000 people have been killed since June.

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

HRW’s Kine said that placing Mindanao under Martial Law empowers the military to supersede civilian authorities in enforcing the law.

While Maute and the Islamist armed group Abu Sayyaf  has threatened the security of people in parts of Mindanao, as both groups have pledged support to the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Kine, however said the imposition of Martial Law throughout Mindanao for at least 60 days could also affect the AFP’s handling of other armed conflicts on the island, including with the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and various Moro insurgent groups.

“Expanding the military’s 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,” Kine said.

“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 pointed out. “Martial law is not a free pass for abuse.” (

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