MALACAÑANG on Thursday, May 24, advised critics to "shut up" if they lack sufficient evidence to prove their claims that human rights violations are rampant under a martial law regime in Mindanao.
In an interview in Marawi City, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. dismissed allegations that the government troops have committed human rights abuses since President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao a year ago.
"It's easy to say that there are many human rights violations. Where are the complaints? Those groups who are saying that there are so many abuses have not even filed complaints," the Palace official said.
"To the accusers, those who are complaining, you have the burden of evidence, burden of proof. Where is your evidence? Otherwise, just shut up because you're not the ones who are sacrificing lives for the country," he added.
Duterte first placed Mindanao under martial law on May 23, 2017 following the skirmishes between government troops and Maute fighters inspired by global terror group Islamic State in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
The martial rule was extended by Congress until December 31, 2017 and further to end-2018 to enable the state troops to end insurgency and eliminate all armed groups in the southern part of the country.
On Tuesday, May 22, rights group Karapatan sent its report to the United Nations (UN) experts, urging them to investigate the supposed cases of human rights violations during the imposition of martial law in Mindanao.
Karapatan claimed that 49 individuals were victims of extrajudicial killings, 116 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 22 victims of torture, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings.
Unfazed by the rights advocate group's accusation, Roque challenged Karapatan to substantiate their claims.
He said the executive branch would give the government troops a "presumption of good faith," as they have made great contributions to efforts to end the Marawi conflict.
"They (state forces) are professional. They have mechanism on how to punish those who will violate the law, especially the law that is enforced when there's a war," Roque added.
"So our challenge is where are the complaints? Let's not accuse the soldiers who sacrificed their lives, suffered injuries, got hurt, and lost their hands and feet (because of the war). Let's not accuse them that they're committing violence without proof, because the public might believe that and get mad at them," he added.
Roque also believed that there is no need to lift martial law, since its implementation remains vital especially amid the ongoing rehabilitation work in Marawi City.
He said the extended martial rule was necessary to "secure" individuals who would help in restoring the war-torn city. (SunStar Philippines)