CATHOLIC bishops of Mindanao have signified their agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to impose a 60-day Martial Law covering Mindanao but emphasized that the declaration “must be temporary.”
On Tuesday evening, Duterte declared Martial Law throughout Mindanao and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi in response to threats posed by militants who laid siege on Marawi City.
The President also warned about expanding the coverage of Martial Law, even encompassing the whole country, if the activities of militants spread to Luzon and the Visayas.
“We have many fears. But at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible,” read a statement by Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato.
The statement indicated that it was “with the approval of the Bishops of Mindanao.”
“We are aware that the problems of peace and order, of the continuing disruptive activities of other rebel groups, the problems of criminality and drugs, of corruption and underdevelopment are in every nook and corner of Mindanao. Mindanao problems go beyond the city limits of Marawi,” Quevedo said.
“We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction,” he added.
As a result of the Martial Law declaration, checkpoints sprouted especially in the national highway stretches in Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Iligan City and Cagayan de Oro City, significantly slowing the pace of travel of private and public utility vehicles.
Police and Army personnel conduct searches and inspections at the checkpoints although in Cagayan de Oro, police admitted many tried to evade the checkpoints by using alternative routes in order not to experience delays.
In Iligan, it will take at least two hours to enter the city from Lanao del Norte due to the long queue of vehicles.
However, the Mindanao bishops urged the people to keep the vigilance against any negative drift of the Martial Law regime.
“We shall condemn any abuse of Martial law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil.”
In Ozamiz, archdiocesan bishop Martin Jumoad supported Martial Law but asked that government guarantee against any human rights abuses.
Jumoad told CBCP News, the media arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, that it would be good if “a mechanism has to be established so that human rights will not be violated.”
Jumoad served as prelate of conflict-torn Basilan for more than a decade before his current assignment which ecclesial territory includes the prelature of St. Mary in Marawi.
The Mindanao bishops urge government “to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good.”
“In the strongest terms we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace,” Quevedo said.
“We stand with the people of Marawi in demanding the immediate withdrawal of the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf from the city. Terrorism by any pretext is unacceptable,” said civil society group International Alert.
Malacanang, meanwhile, acknowledged Saturday the ‘openness’ of the Mindanao bishops on the President’s martial law declaration.
"The government appreciates support from all sectors, no matter how nuanced," Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella's statement came after Cotabato Cardinal Orlando Quevedo said Friday that Catholic bishops in Southern Philippines do not oppose one-man rule in Mindanao.
Quevedo said the Church has no "solid and sufficient" evidence to dismiss the proclamation of martial law as "morally reprehensible."
"We have many fears but at present, we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial law as morally reprehensible," Quevec said in a pastoral guidance.
"We shall condemn any abuse of Martial law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil. Let us be vigilant," he added. With a report from SunStar Philippines