Why Davao only? Groups react to city’s exemption to ML

Aug. 09, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Progressive groups in Davao said the call from Davao officials to exempt Martial Law in Mindanao may be good, but said they can do more to push for the lifting of this declaration in the whole of Mindanao.

The labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said the call for exemption is ironic as it reflects interests of foreign investors wanting the declaration lifted to ease the entry of their business.

“They were mum on the killings, illegal detention, and harassments of civilians, church leaders, journalists, and human rights activists under Martial Law. But they’re much willing to exempt Davao City from martial law because businessmen and investors called for it. Now it’s clear whose side they’re willing to listen,” Carlo Olalo, KMU Southern Mindanao Secretary General said.

The City Council’s resolution was in response to Mayor Sara Duterte’s proposal last June after her discussion with ambassadors and officials of other countries who joined the 2019 Davao Investment Conference (Davao ICon) at the SMX Convention Davao.

READ: City Council asks President to exclude Davao from Martial Law

“Because of Martial Law in Mindanao, many were subjected to surveillance, harassment, and even killings. These cases as guaranteed by the imposition of military rule over civilian rule apparently provided a go signal for violation of human rights,” Olalo pointed out.

Meanwhile, Lumad leader Jong Monzon of Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao said that local governments of other towns and cities should follow track as Martial Law has negative effects on people’s lives.

“It is a glaring manifestation that martial rule has a negative impact even to urban centers like Davao City. How much more to the [economic activities] of other cities and towns in the provinces?” Monzon asks.

“The worse effect of martial law is the wanton violation of human rights, especially in the countrysides. The government’s counter-insurgency campaign targets not the armed groups but civilian communities especially the indigenous people,” Monzon lamented.

Monzon’s group, Pasaka, noted that 13 Lumad people in Mindanao were killed, and most of this happened in the implementation of Martial Law.

He added, “we call on other local governments to follow the move of Davao City Council. Assess the effect of martial rule in your localities and we urge you to put more weight on civilian lives by asking the President to end such declaration.”

Martial Law was declared on May 23, 2017 after a clash erupted between government troops and an “ISIS-inspired” group in Marawi City.

Martial Law was extended beyond the conscripted 60 days in the Constitution. President Duterte pushed Congress to extend the declaration for the rest of 2018, citing that terrorist cells were regrouping.

Last December, the Congress granted another request from Duterte to extend martial law in Mindanao until the end of this year.

But Monzon said “genuine peace in the country, especially in Mindanao, is only possible if the roots of the armed conflict are addressed.”

“Martial law is not the solution to end conflict in Mindanao but through peace talks. Both parties should go back to the negotiating table and pursue fundamental social reforms that address poverty and inequality,” he added.

He said indigenous communities bear the brunt of martial rule citing the forcible closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao.

He added, “the recent Department of Education (DepEd) order to suspend operation of IP schools was unnecessary because in reality these schools has long been the target of military’s red-tagging and soldiers were already closing Salugpongan campuses.”

Karapatan Southern Mindanao released a report citing 66 cases of political killings happened in Southern Mindanao since 2016, during the implementation of martial law in Mindanao. Most of these cases are linked to military units as alleged perpetrators.

Jay Apiag, Karapatan Southern Mindanao secretary-general, said local leaders should look at these facts and consider human rights as the prime reason to lift Martial Law.

“The entire Mindanao is not part of their jurisdiction but we urge our local leaders to go beyond the effects of martial law to the economy but to the lives of the people and ask the President to lift martial law in the entire island. Human rights were clearly trampled under such fascist declaration,” Apiag said. (Kath M. Cortez, Ken E. Cagula, and Mara S. Genotiva/davaotoday.com)

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