A MUSLIM organization said the declaration of the martial law will only exacerbate the ongoing conflict between government troops and a group of armed men in Marawi City.
Jerome Aba, national chairperson of the Suara Bangsamoro, said the declaration of martial law will only justify the urban militarization and intensified military operations in Marawi.
“Martial law will only worsen the heightening peace instability in Marawi City as it intensifies and create fresh armed clashes between the state army and the Maute group,” said Aba Wednesday.
“We fear for the lives of the civilians who might get caught in the crossfire. We fear for the effects of war to the civilian population,” he said.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who cut short his visit to the Russian Federation, made the pronouncement Tuesday evening, May 23, after a series of firefight erupted when the military raided a house where Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon who was suspected to be hiding in Marawi.
The raid triggered a gun battle involving soldiers and armed members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf, who occupied several establishments in the city on Tuesday afternoon.
As of Wednesday morning, May 24, reports said a policeman and two soldiers were killed and about a dozen others wounded. It was yet to be determined the number of Abu Sayyaf and Maute fighters who were killed.
Aba added the Duterte administration should learn from what happened during the siege in Zamboanga City in 2013 where displacement, death, hunger and poverty continues to affect the civilians even after a year.
The declaration of martial rule, Aba said, will also lessen the possibility of resolving the issue through diplomatic and non-militaristic means.
“[Suara Bangsamoro] believes that the Moro leaders should pursue conversations with the Maute group and come up with the resolutions how to resolve the ongoing crisis,” he added.
The human rights group Karapatan has issued its own statement expressing its opposition to the President's declaration.
“[Martial law] will not address the circumstances of the current situation in Marawi, but will aggravate the insecurity in the area. Martial Law is not the answer; it will never result to anything but gross violations of people’s rights,” said Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general.
Palabay said they are calling for a deeper investigation on the incidents in Marawi, while it condemns the various acts which have endangered civilians.
Karapatan has also questioned why Martial Law was declared in the entire island of Mindanao as “it has laid the predicate for full-blown rights violations, akin to the convoluted justifications of Marcos’ martial law.”
But Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, who’s the chair of the Regional Peace and Order Council, said he is supporting Duterte’s declaration, saying it is “decisive and focused move, meant to finally bring lasting peace and harmony in Mindanao.”
Moreno, however, is hoping that “the operationalization of martial rule not subvert the sovereign people’s collective will; and neither will it disregard constitutional guarantees, except in cases that are more than reasonably necessary to achieve its sole purpose.”