The Armed Forces of the Philippines assured the public Wednesday that there will be no human rights violations amid President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“Ang inyo pong AFP is committed into enforcing whatever will be in addition to our operations in the ground pursuant to declaration of martial law. We will do this without abuse, we will do this in consonance with existing laws,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo told reporters.
Duterte placed the entire island of Mindanao under martial law before midnight Tuesday. The announcement was made by Palace spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
Arevalo said he believes martial law would be a big help in addressing the Marawi situation.
“Malaki ang maitutulong ng martial law sapagkat meron po itong aspeto na ika nga pagbabanta sa mga supporters, sa mga sympathizers ng local terrorist group na ito na hindi nila dapat ikanlong, hindi nila dapat tulungan, hindi nila asistihan ang local terrorist group na ito. Kelangan nilang makipagtulungan sa pamahalaan,” he said.
He said the public should not be afraid as the target of the intensified operations is the local terrorist group and their supporters and sympathizers.
“Kung meron man pong dapat matakot sa deklarasyon ng martial law, ito ay ang teroristang grupo at ang supporters and sympathizers nila, hindi ang ating mga kababayan. We are assuring our people of the professionalism of our security forces, the AFP,” he said.
For his part, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the 1987 Constitution has safeguards to ensure human rights and due process are to be observed during martial rule.
Dureza said the courts are mandated to continue functioning regularly and constitutional processes remain in place.
He also urged the public to be vigilant against human rights abuses.
“It's also good for the citizens not just to stay calm but also be very vigilant about what's happening around them, vigilant about those who will implement in whatever way the declaration of martial law because it's also very important that in the declaration of martial law we protect the rights of people who are not involved (in terrorism),” he said on the sidelines of the 21st National Press Forum at a hotel in Manila.
He then asked the public to support the President’s action.
“We have to support the President. This is an emergency power given to him by the Constitution and nobody else can make the determination to address lawless violence, insurrection or rebellion in order to protect the nation,” the Cabinet official said.
Meanwhile, Arevalo also called on the public to help the government troops end the atrocities.
“Ang ating gawin ay tulungan natin ang ating security forces na matapos nang mabilis, maayos ang sitwasyong ito sa Marawi upang makabalik na tayo sa normal na pamumuhay,” he said.
Arevalo said security forces would be able to end the problem before the 60-day period lapses.
“Hindi po tayo nag-iisip na aabot ito ng 60 araw. The intent of the security forces, your AFP, is to conclude this rapidly upang sa ganun maibalik natin ang normalcy sa lugar na iyan at ang pamumuhay ng ating mga kababayan ay maibalik natin sa dati,” he said.
He said the situation in Marawi is under control but they are still trying to get back the installations occupied by Maute group members.
“What we can tell you is that ‘yung situation sa Marawi is under control, andyan na ang security forces,” he said.
“Ang challenge ay paano muling mababawi yung ilang installations na sinasabing andoon sila at sinasabing may snipers na nakadeploy. That’s why kailangan tayong lubhang maging maingat sa ating pagpasok (sa lugar),” he said.
He said the forces deployed in Marawi are from special units who are skilled in such situation.
“Ang pinadalang forces dito are special units na kailangan natin para macounter ang mga position na ito at mabawi ang lugar. This is a highly urbanized area so kailangan nating maging maingat, iba po ang nature ng operation dito because meron silang snipers. Handa tayo doon, may kasanayan at kakayahan ang ating mga sundalo upang tugunan ang ganitong level ng threat,” he said.
At least three were killed, including a police officer and two soldiers, and 12 were injured in the operation in Marawi.
Arevalo said there were at least 50 Maute group members in Marawi.
He said the AFP received an intelligence report that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon was in Marawi City so they conducted an operation together with the Philippine National Police in the area.
He said the supporters and sympathizers of the Maute group conducted attacks in other places to divert the attention of government forces.
“Noong nagsagawa ng law enforcement operation, pinutukan ‘yung ating security forces and that triggered the incident because noong malaman ng mga supporters at sympathizers ng local terrorist group, naengage ‘yung kanilang mga kasamahan, gumawa sila ng harassments sa iba’t ibang lugar at installation sa Marawi upang idivert ang attention at agawin ang ating pansin sa engagement operation,” he said. — with Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News