MEMBERS of the Regional Peace and Order Council in Northern Mindanao (RPOC-10) unanimously passed Monday, December 10, a resolution supporting the proposed extension of martial law in Mindanao for another year.
Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno, who is also the current head of RPOC-10, reiterated his support for President Rodrigo Duterte's call for martial law.
He was confident that the current martial rule is different from the Marcos-era martial law and that security forces will observe the Constitutional rights of the people.
"In fact, the way I look at it, this is more of a defensive (tool), and (it sends) a strong message (against) those who might engage in terrorism," he said.
He said the city's Barangay Tanod (village watchmen) can help the police and military personnel in maintaining peace and order in the communities.
The RPOC-10 is composed of local government heads, with police and military officers, in Northern Mindanao region. Other than passing the resolution, the members discussed key issues, mostly relating to local terrorist groups and the installation of stringent checkpoints along national highways.
Meanwhile pro-martial law and anti-martial law groups met face-to-face during the commemoration Monday of the 70th international Human Rights Day.
Individuals supporting martial law and the military did not allow the entry of militant groups to the 4th Infantry Division (4ID), Camp Evangelista in Barangay Patag.
But this did not stop the activists, who still delivered a message to the military and tagged the latter as the number one human rights violator in the country, especially in the Davao Region.
From the provincial Capitol grounds, the militant groups marched to the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail (MOPJ) where they called for the release of the political prisoners.
They proceeded to the 4ID camp. At the City Hall, they slammed Moreno for recommending the extension of martial law declaration in Mindanao.
Rev. Fr. Allan Khen Apus, spokesperson of Karapatan-Northern Mindanao, said Moreno's recommendation means that he has a hand and a part of the extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations allegedly committed by state forces in the country.
Apus said it is ridiculous for Moreno to think that the martial law declared by dictator Ferdinand Marcos and President Rodrigo Duterte are different.
"Mayor, paano mo nasabi? Daghan leaders who are victims of trumped-up charges, many are killed in the war on drugs, and some are now victims of forced disappearances. So you tell me mayor, is it at all different?" Apus said.
Apus said he thinks that Moreno is "scared" and urged him to step up against the government's abuses.
"Basin gahuna-huna ka mayor nga sa imong pagtugot sa pag-extend sa martial law, basin wala-on ni Santo Rodrigo ang tanan nga mga kaso batok kanimo," Apus said.
The group also hit the city government after it did not give them a permit to rally in Divisoria, which Fr. Roland Abejo of the Movement Against Tyranny in Northern Mindanao (MAT) described as a form of oppression.
Abejo, for his part, questioned Moreno's statements about the city being peaceful, saying that the presence of military and police anywhere contradicts his claim.
About 2,000 individuals from Bukidnon participated in the protests staged Monday, but before they could enter the city, the protesters were held at various checkpoints for over five hours.
Abejo called this a form of harassment.
"Nganong mahadlok man kamo nga magpasulod sa katawhan dinhi sa Cagayan de Oro aron ibutyag ang tinuod nga panghitabo ilalom sa martial law ni Duterte," Abejo said.
Abejo said they will not be cowed and will continue to fight.
Human Rights Day is observed every year on December 10. On this day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This year, Human Rights Day marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a milestone document that proclaimed the inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being -- regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.