Martial Law still exists in Moro areas — group

Sep. 22, 2007

Martial Law still exists in Mindanao, particularly in Moro areas under the pretext of pulverizing terrorists.

Thirty-five years later, the public is still being made to believe that the terrorist scare justifies anti-people measures like the Human Security Act and all-out war in Moro communities, even during Ramadhan, the holy month of fasting.

Every Moro is suspected of being a member, aiding a terrorist or is thinking to be a future terrorist — hence the military bombard the whole community in pursuit of a band of thieves, arrest innocent civilians and parade them as terrorists, implicate the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in terrorist bombings and threaten them to be put in the list of terrorist organization should they refuse to succumb to the governments version of a final peace agreement.

In the name of fighting terrorism, 191 killed as a result of military operations against the MNLF and the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf in the provinces of Maguindanao, Shariff Kabungsuan, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Basilan and Sulu; 442,000 individuals were displaced from their ancestral homes in the midst of ongoing military operations, and millions of pesos worth of property, farms and livelihood destroyed; 132 cases of illegal arrests and detention of suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf and MILF.

Checkpoints abound in Moro areas with CAFGUS and soldiers manning checkpoints especially along the highway. Moro communities are filled with AFP detachments. Every after military operations, residents fear going back should they risk military reprisal. They even have to sneak in their farmlands to harvest their crops.

In the recent military operations in Basilan and Sulu, purportedly in pursuit of Abu Sayyaf elements who beheaded ten soldiers from the Philippine Marines, more than 24,000 residents have fled their communities while the government deployed more than 10,000 marines and infantry in the two Moro provinces.

Children who were shot, killed and maimed as a consequence of the military’s pursuit operations were identified as ASG child proteges – like Almujayal Padiwan who was hit and wounded by elements of the marines in 2005 and the recently eight teens tortured by the Army in Indanan, Sulu last month.

For the Human Security Act to be accepted by the public, they should be put in a scenario of “extra-ordinary circumstances.” Such incidents include the kidnapping of a priest, the beheading of the marines, the “clobbering” of soldiers by their nemesis in the battlefield.

More questions were raised as to who was really behind Father Bossi’s kidnapping and why were the Marines ordered to attack the camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Basilan when all along the priest they were looking for was somewhere in the mountain range of Sibugay and Lanao del Norte.
Nevertheless, these scenarios sealed and justified the implementation of HSA, which has only brought more chances for politicians and government agencies to abuse their power against those who criticize anti-people policies of the government.

HSA is also hell bent in silencing the families who are seeking justice for those who were victims of extrajudicial killings, illegal and warrantless arrests and enforced disappearances. There is no mention in the HSA on how the government will make its military officials accused of extrajudicial killing tried for their crimes. It leaves no room for displaced people because of military operations to seek grievances against military officials and soldiers responsible for bombing their communities.

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