Senator Leila M. de Lima has called for a full-blown Senate inquiry into the two-and-a-half-year implementation of martial law in Mindanao in order to draw past lessons about the root causes of rebellion and the government’s interventions in the region.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Resolution (SR) 326 to inquire how martial law was implemented and how funds were used, including the rehabilitation of affected areas.
“It is the constitutional duty of Congress to check the executive and hold them accountable for the extraordinary powers given to them by our people as well as the billions of pesos spent to fund the martial rule,” she said.
In May 23, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 216 which placed the entire Mindanao region under the martial rule and suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus for 60 days. He sought for its first extension until Dec. 31, 2017.
He, however, requested Congress again to extend the declaration of martial law in Mindanao two more times – the second extension lasted until Dec. 31, 2018 and the third until the end of 2019.
De Lima noted the lack of transparency in the implementation of martial law in the two and a half years duration thereof.
“These events that have transpired in the southernmost part of the Philippine archipelago demands to be recounted in a full-blown inquiry so that its accomplishments, if there are any, may be echoed in other future legislation; and its failures may be no longer be repeated through meaningful legislation,” De Lima pointed out.
The lady Senator from Bicol cited conflicting reports and statements that the military rule in Mindanao resulted to a “more sinister and monstrous attack on the Moro people,” that is the rise of a sprawling military camp in Marawi City.
“[These] must be looked into and investigated to determine whether arrests in relation with the declaration of martial law were made and cases were filed against those tagged as enemies of the State, and whether due process and the rights of the accused afforded by the Constitution were respected and upheld,” she said.
Human rights alliance Karapatan reported that in the more than two years of martial law in Mindanao, about 93 activists have been killed and 136 persons have escaped death. More than 1,400 were arrested and detained, it added.
Karapatan has also recorded 35 cases of torture, 28,813 threat, harassment and intimidation, 423,538 forcible evacuations, and 348,081 bombings.
“A thorough investigation into the human rights abuses perpetrated under the cloak of impunity made possible by a military control over the region is vital in ensuring that such abuse of power may never again be replicated and those who abused their offices are duly punished and held accountable,” the lady Senator said.
The former justice secretary also urged her colleagues to look at the PhP10-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction fund, especially in Marawi City which was gravely devastated by the violent clashes between Muslim rebels and government troops.
“There is a need to inquire into the spending of public funds to determine whether the purpose sought by the declaration of martial law was truly achieved, and whether the region was rehabilitated from the ashes that tore families apart and destroyed homes and livelihood,” she added.
The Duterte administration has released PhP10 billion for the Marawi rehabilitation program for 2018, but reportedly needs an additional PhP52 billion more to complete the reconstruction of the affected areas and return its displaced residents back to normalcy./Stacy Ang