Still No Peace, Just Piling Cases of Human Rights Violations

Two years has passed since President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao. Two years has passed since the Marawi Siege. Despite public pronouncements that the Maute group has been foiled, the government has failed to provide the much-needed rehabilitation of the city and the restoration of the lives and livelihood of Meranaos. Until now, Marawi remains a ghost town and the Meranaos remain homeless.

Justice for the victims has not yet been attained. The Meranaos continue to brave the streets and government offices to express their grief for their losses and their rage towards the government’s inaction. But even these efforts have not swayed the government to restore the lives and livelihood of the Meranaos. The government has failed to rebuild the city which the AFP have, in the first place, destroyed in the guise of counterterrorism. And with the government’s failure, it is the Meranaos who suffer the most, who carry the burden of the social costs and losses of the government’s war on terror.

The Martial Law in Mindanao was clearly used as a weapon of the government for “counter-terrorism” or “peace-building”, against its perceived enemies. It is used as a weapon to justify attacks against the Moro people and the progressive groups. The President made it clear that he has no intention of resuming peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. In re-extending Martial Law in December 2018 for another year, the President announced that he will go after the “Left”, commanding all his armed forces and propaganda machinery to attack even unarmed civilians critical to his government.

These pronouncements have only emboldened the AFP to commit terrorist acts in peasant and Lumad communities with strong organizations that demand the right to land and basic social services. In Northern Mindanao, multiple trumped-up charges were filed against leaders and members of people’s organizations to send a chilling effect among activists and human rights defenders. Activists and community development workers, church people, lawyers, teachers, journalists, and students are being demonized, tagged as rebels in hitlists, and harassed. The latter include death threats sent via Facebook and via text sent by suspected members of the AFP. These agents were also documented to be tailing activists and monitoring offices of people’s organizations. They have even gone as far as visiting the homes and relatives of activists, accusing the latter as involved in “terrrorist activities of the NPA.”

Among the victims of the government’s crackdown against activists are Lumad Leader Jomorito Guaynon and Peasant Leader Ireneo Udarbe who were abducted, tortured, and now jailed due to a fabricated charge of frustrated murder, a malicious attempt to criminalize the political activities of these two well-known leaders of the legal mass movement. Peasants Gerry Basahon, Gerald Basahon, Mylene Coleta, and Marivic Coleta were also jailed for trumped-up charges after an illegal raid of their office in Misamis Oriental.

The Lumad are not safe in their ancestral domains as military operations step up. The counter-insurgency operations have victimized civilian communities where Lumad and peasants are forced to surrender as NPAs or were forced to evacuate their villages for fear of further abuses from the State forces.

Recently, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police actively campaigned against the Makabayan Block during the elections. Facebook pages maintained by the 4th ID and its affiliates in the region posted malicious posts and images that intentionally demonized Makabayan partylists and Senatorial Candidate Neri Colmenares. Despite these efforts, they failed to defeat the progressive organization from entering the Halls of Congress, which are traditionally dominated by war mongrels who wish to see the extension of Martial law and its coverage.

Martial Law has created more conditions for the impunity of state forces to continue threatening, harassing, and inflicting violence against communities and people’s organizations, both in the countryside and in the cities. We are far from achieving peace that is based on genuine justice. The government’s Martial Law narrative is that of false sense of security. Underneath is a rotten system littered with bodies of suspects who died without the benefit of due process, and where critics are silenced through trumped up charges and other nefarious machinations

But social unrest will only genuinely cease if the roots of armed conflict in the countryside are addressed. Martial Law is not the solution, rather it further aggravates the problems of the people of Mindanao

On its second anniversary, we call on all freedom- and democracy-loving Filipinos to march beside our Meranao brothers and sisters and other victims of human rights violations brought by Martial Law. Let us continue to stand for truth and justice. In history, the people oppressed and exploited who fought back will never be defeated.

For reference:

Rev. Fr. Rolando Abejo
Movement Against Tyranny – Northern Mindanao Region

Source: Movement Against Tyranny – Northern Mindanao Region facebook page

Date: May 24, 2019