Jan 082018
 
"Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people
are fed, and where individuals and nations are free" - 14th Dalai
Lama.



On December 11, 2017, the President requested Congress to extend
Martial Law in Mindanao for another year citing continued threats from
armed groups connected to international terrorists and added another
reason, to fight against the communist insurgency. Three days after,
both houses of Congress convened jointly and with a resounding
majority votes, granted the President’s request to extend Martial Law
until end of 2018.



Pres. Duterte’s more than one year in office showed a systematic
attack to human rights: more than 14,000 deaths in its war against
illegal drugs; total destruction of Marawi City leading to the
displacement of more than 500,000 Meranaos; the increased spate in the
killings of Lumad, bombings and militarization of their communities;
killings of peasants, workers, women, youth leaders and activists.
These attacks were made by commission or omission of government
obligation to protect the inherent rights of peoples.



The Marawi siege by local terrorists was used by the President as his
foundation for the Martial Law declaration. This was extended when the
battle dragged on. Even after the city was liberated five months
later, Martial Law was not lifted. Since the war in Marawi broke out,
the Meranaos continue to suffer systematic attacks on their rights.
Not only they lost loved ones, they were also stripped off of their
homes and properties, their homeland totally ravaged. Most of all,
their dignities stripped off, the very core of their Meranao identity.



The war on terrorism waged by the government have again subjected the
Moro people to persecution. The Meranao’s for example were tagged as
terrorist because of their ethnic association to the Maute clan.
Harassments of individuals and communities were experienced even by
the Moros in other areas after the Martial Law declaration in May. The
extension of Martial Law will further intensify this situation because
as Muslims they are automatically singled-out and associated with
terrorists especially since the prevailing misconception of the
majority population on terrorists and terrorism are related to the US’
definition and policies against terrorism.



The abandonment of the peace talks with the Communist Party of the
Philippines and the National Democratic Front with its armed wing the
New People’s Party (CPP-NDF-NPA) and the subsequent declaration of the
NPA as a terrorist organization. This effectively expanded the scope
of the government’s war against terrorism to also include the
communist insurgents and their allied organizations. This is very
dangerous for communities in Mindanao as the military and the
President claimed that majority of the communist rebels are from
Mindanao aside from attributing 75 percent of them to be Lumad. Grave
concern and anxiety ripple through Lumad leaders and their communities
with this claim especially now that the Martial Law is extended until
next year. Martial Law will greatly allow the state’s security
apparatus to widen the scope of its witch hunting activities.



Military deployments and tighter checkpoints were already in place in
the considered red zones where the Lumad communities are predominantly
situated. While there is truth to the claim that the NPA and other
rebel groups thrive within the ancestral domains these are mainly due
to perennial issues of human rights abuses due to land grabbing and
blatant plunder of resources ripening the ground for the blossoming
and support of an existing ideology. Added to this, the Lumad
ancestral domains are strategically located with the remaining forest
covers best suited for guerilla warfare. The Lumad did not take this
sitting down as manifested in their constant cries and position:
“leave us alone!” and “do not bring your wars inside the ancestral
domain”.



Recently, Lumad communities in South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Agusan
Provinces, Surigao del Sur and Maguindanao again bear the brunt of the
government’s intensified campaign against the communist rebels and
even to supportive legal organizations. Lumad communities are all the
more caught in the armed fighting between the Armed Forces of the
Philippines (AFP) and the NPA, and in some cases with extremist groups
making the Lumad’s ancestral domains as battlefields. In either cases,
the Lumad are also suspected as supporters to either of the warring
groups. Military airstrikes conducted by the AFP displaced local
residents, majority of whom are Lumad. Lumad leaders and community
members active in the defense of their rights as Indigenous Peoples
and defenders of their ancestral domains have become the target of
red-tagging associating them as members of the communist rebels or
part of terrorists groups making them vulnerable to government troop’s
red-baiting and witch hunting leading to false arrests and in worst
cases, killings. An extension of the Martial Law declaration for a
longer period is tantamount to allowing the bloodbath in these
communities to persist.



The declaration of NPA as terrorists will not only adversely affect
the Lumad human rights and environmental defenders. This will also
greatly impact to other sectors who continue to demand for their
democratic rights and stand up for the defense of their rights such as
farmers, workers, women, youth, among others who will also become
victims of the red-tagging. The intensified military operations across
the country have targeted active political and human rights activists
even civilians and causing numerous deaths. The latest fatalities were
the 72-year old retired priest Fr Tito Paez in Nueva Ecija by a riding
in tandem assassins and the T’boli leader Datu Victor Danyan and seven
of his fellow T’boli in a military operation in Lake Sebu, South
Cotabato.



The resistance of progressive and critical social movements against
neoliberal policies, corruption in the government and ineffective and
poor services have been already judged as an anti-government and
equated to as destabilizers, therefore considered security threats.
Martial Law will further constrict the democratic spaces for us who
are actively participating in building just, dignified, peaceful and
sustainable communities.



Given all the above, we the representatives of our tri-people
grassroots constituencies of the Bangsamoro, Mindanao migrants and
Katawhang Lumad, vehemently oppose the further extension of the
Martial Law declaration. We believe that putting Mindanao under
military rule will greatly endanger our human rights as individual
persons and collectively as peoples. We are deeply disappointed with
the both houses of Congress for willfully submitting to the whims and
caprices of this dispensation, abandoning their sworn duty to defend
and protect the Filipino people and the Constitution.



We demand to genuinely include the Meranaos in the rehabilitation and
rebuilding process of their homeland and their lives. A militarist
approach to the rehabilitation efforts in Marawi City would prevent
the Meranaos and the IDPs, further displacing them and denying them
democratic rights to substantially participate in putting back their
lives on track and their homeland in order.



We strongly debunk the false attribution that the bulk of the NPA’s
and/or rebel groups are Lumad. This is committing another grave
injustice to the Lumad people who have since time immemorial suffered
from colonization, exclusion, marginalization and dispossession.
Perpetuating the above claim is like signing the death warrant of this
persecuted people.



We condemn in the strongest term possible all these attacks and
killings in the Lumad communities. We echo and reiterate their demand
for all armed groups, whether it be from the state and non-state
actors, to immediately leave and cease from encroaching into their
ancestral territories making them unwilling victims of these wars. We
strongly demand accountability and responsibility to all the deaths,
destruction and damages sustained by these Lumad communities. We feel
their fear and concerns as their communities and members continue to
be subjected to all these military and development attacks. We fully
recognize and respect the Indigenous Political Structures and systems
of the Katawhang Lumad in the exercise of their rights to
self-determination for their political future and the protection and
management of their territories and the resources therein.



We add our collective voice in strongly condemning the killings and
harassment of leaders and activists fighting and asserting for the
protection and fulfillment of human rights. We are of the firm belief
that in the Mindanao context, terrorism did not emerge as a foreign
idea rather it is deeply rooted to social injustice and structural
violence such as suppression of the democratic individual and
collective rights of persons and peoples aggravated by neglect,
chronic corruption and ineffective and inefficient governance fueling
social unrest and insurgency. Without substantial political, economic
and social responses to these questions, resistance will continue in
various forms and means. Martial Law and Militarization are never
answers to these deep seated issues instead will foment more unrest.



Reference Person: Mr. Rodelio N. Ambangan, Chairperson

Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM)

Cotabato City

December 18, 2017

   

 

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