Sandugo blames martial law for spike in rights violations in Mindanao

May. 18, 2018

Members of the Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination protest in front of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday morning, May 18, 2018 to condemn the human rights violations under martial law in Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Yamzon)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Five days before the first year anniversary of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, Lumad and Moro groups trooped in front of Camp Aguinaldo in Manila to denounce martial rule in Mindanao, which they blamed for the “massive destruction of communities” in the island.

“President Duterte and the AFP turned Marawi into a city of rubbles. Now Mindanao is ruined due to the over extension of martial law and All-Out War,” said Sandugo co-chairperson Jerome Succor Aba.

The Sandugo Movement of Moro and Indigenous Peoples for Self Determination staged a protest in front of the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Friday morning and dumped rubbles at the gates of the camp to symbolize the “ruined lives” brought by the martial law.

Aba said almost half a million Lumad and Moro have been displaced and are being prohibited from returning to their communities.

“Most are still suffering in cramped evacuation centers receiving minimal assistance from the government. Others have sought refuge elsewhere,” Aba added.

Human rights situation in Mindanao

In a statement, human rights group Mindanao Barug Katungod said there were 130 documented cases of extrajudicial killings since President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last year. The group said most of the victims are peasants and indigenous people or Lumad.

The group also said there are 404 individuals, mostly leaders of Lumad, Moro, peasant organizations, activists and human rights workers, who are facing trumped-up charges in various courts.

“They are forced to face these false charges. Others go into hiding to secure their lives and their families,” Aba said.

The group cited the latest case of human rights violation: the detention of a 70-year-old farmer Clarito Suarez and Ricmic Budta, 17 years old, allegedly by members of the military in Trento, Agusan del Sur last May 9.

Karapatan earlier reported that the two were at their farm when the military was conducting military operations. They were later brought to the 25th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Monkayo, Compostel Valley and were only released the next day.

The AFP 10th Infantry Division belied the allegation in a statement.

“This is the face of martial law and All-Out War in Mindanao – destruction. If the Duterte regime thinks it can to solve the problem of rebellion by destroying his people and his own island of Mindanao – then he is wrong. Fascist measures and repression will only push us, the national minorities to further resist, fuelling even more the existing rebellion,” Aba said.

Aba said the government should instead focus on addressing the roots of social unrest and civil war in the country and called for the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front.

The group urged the President to lift martial law and render justice to all the victims of human rights violations in the course of the government’s all out war declaration against insurgency.

President Rodrigo Duterte on May 23 last year declared martial law in the entire Mindanao island after clashes erupted between government troops and Maute group in Marawi City.

In December, majority of the members of the Philippine Congress voted in favor of President Duterte’s request to extend martial law until the end of 2018.

The Supreme Court on February 6 upheld the year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao. (

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