Martial Law extension draws mixed reactions in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY CITY (14 December) Congress’ approval of President Rodrigo Duterte’s request to extend martial law and suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao until next year drew mixed reactions here.

Congress extended martial law until December 31, 2018 with a vote of 240 in favor and 27 against.

This brings until yearend 2018 to 19 months or 588 days the duration of martial law over Mindanao’s 27 provinces and 33 cities, from the original 60 days when Duterte declared martial law on May 23, the day the Marawi Crisis started.

Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan said he disagreed with military rule as the solution to peace and order in Mindanao, adding war and violence only leads to spiral of violence and much poverty in the country.

“Did our leaders consult all the sectors in Mindanao or only listened to the assessment of the military? Will we expect more hamletting of our IPs, happening now in the diocese of Tandag? More displacement of our people in the hinterlands due to arm conflict?” he said in response to a request for comments by this reporter on December 13.

The bishop, who was vice chair of the episcopal commission on indigenous peoples from 2011-2015, asked if the extension means more labelling of the poor people in the mountains as “masa (communist sympathizers)?” Are we really sensitive to the fears they are living with? Will this bring us to a just and lasting peace?

Cabantan have pushed to “normalize the situation” and focus on genuine human development which is the “true face of peace”.

Lawyer Burt Estrada, immediate past president of the Bukidnon chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said he does not see the need to extend Martial Law in Mindanao.

“The power of the president to call out the Armed Forces and address the perceived threats is more than enough.  A continued state of martial law does not give more powers to the government than what the exercise of the calling out powers already can,” he added.

He added that the extension gives an impression to outsiders that the entire Mindanao is still unsafe for business and tourism, which to him “is not true”.

“It leaves open the possibility of more human rights abuses perpetrated by those who do not understand the legal effects and limitations of martial law,” he added.

Ma. Easterluna Canoy, executive director of the Kitanglad Integrated NGOs said she also did not agree with the extension and called for an assessment of the impact of the existing term of Martial Law to Mindanao.

“Return to LGUs jurisdiction to ensure utmost public safety and security while ML is being assessed,” she added.

Bae Mangunguyamo Erlinda Bonye, tribal head of the Bukidnon Tribe in Imbayao said she was not happy Martial Law was extended.

“Dili maoy makasulbad ang Martial Law sa mga terrorista nga grupo kay daghan mga sibelyan nga ma apel kung polboson ang terorista (It is not the solution to the terrorism problem, because the civilians are also killed),” she added.

Other indigenous peoples (IP) leaders, however, favoured the move.

Bae Alma Binayao of the Manobo-Talaandig in Maramag, Bukidnon, said it is welcomed so as to monitor the peace and order in Mindanao.

Bae Inatlawan Adelina Tarino of the Bukidnon Daraghuyan in Dalwangan, Malaybalay City said via SMS she agreed with the extension “para mawala ang mga dautang binuhatan (so those with ill acts will be eliminated).

Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway of the Talaandig tribe said there are more advantages than disadvantages with the extension of Martial Law, so it is welcome “provided human rights must be respected.”

Board Member Nemesio Beltran Jr. of Bukidnon second district said he also agreed with the extension to give time for the police and the military to finally “neutralize and eliminate the threats to Mindanao society”.

Lawyer Sherrymae Velos, incumbent president of the IBP-Bukidnon chapter said she personally she favors the ML extension so long as it’s only up to December 2018.

She said she firmly believes the terrorists are still lurking within a vulnerable Mindanao but the military must exert all efforts to “flush them out” and regain control over the country.

She added that the quick and efficient rehabilitation of Marawi City and making it progressive enough, will dissuade terrorists.

She said education and awareness is another key factor so that the ML will finally be lifted.

Emma Molina of Barog Bukidnon, a civil society organization, said the Duterte Martial Law, which she described as “friendly rule”, is needed to attain ultimate peace in Mindanao.

“As long as there will be no abuses in the part of the military and police,” she added.

But she noted that Duterte should lift if ahead of December 2018 if its work (on peace in Mindanao) is completed.

Dr. Lourdes G. dela Torre, an educator and peace advocate, said they have expected the extension, adding it is Duterte’s approach to ensure that federalism will be realized, “the ML is just the means”.

Board member Richard Macas, who is the IP mandatory representative to the provincial board said there was no adverse effect of Martial Law in Bukidnon, so far.

“However, the extension is another story. If we look at the legal aspect, we don’t see a clear basis that would warrant the extension,” he added.

He clarified that he, too, has aspired for peace in Mindanao.

“(The extension of one year) is dangerous for possible violations. It’s a long way to go, he added. Macas said nothing much has happened in Bukidnon with the present ML term unlike in other neighboring provinces.

“But it is also possible for the abuses to happen here,” he added.
Another board member, lawyer Jay Albarece of the Bukidnon first district, said he will just watch out for the Supreme Court deliberations.

“I’m sure groups will question the factual basis,” he added.  (Walter I. Balane)