Robredo supports Mindanao martial law but warns of human rights abuses


Citing the need for “unity,” Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo expressed support to President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration in Mindanao amid terror activities conducted by Islamic State (IS)-linked militants.

“This is the time for us to unite. This is the time for us to protect together our national security,” Robredo said in Filipino.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday evening, May 23, in the wake of a confrontation between government troops and Maute group in Marawi City.

The Maute group has been tagged in last year’s bombing attempt near the United States Embassy in Manila in November, as well as the Davao City market blast in September, where around 15 individuals died and 69 others injured. The group is also believed to have pledged allegiance to IS years ago.

“We wish to be supportive of the administration because, with the severity of the terrorism problem, now is not the time to quarrel with each other,” Robredo added.

Since Tuesday, the number of deaths related to the Marawi crisis has reached 44 as of Thursday, May 25, — 31 from the Maute group while the remaining number were from the combined Armed Forces and police. Several facilities were burned, prisoners escaped in jails, civilians were trapped in the area, and while some were also reportedly taken as hostages.

The military said it was able to reclaim several militant-occupied but added that clearing operations are still ongoing.

While expressing support to Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao, Robredo called on the government and the armed forces to uphold human rights amid their operations under the military rule.

The vice president said that many Filipinos “fear” the martial law.

“Many are fearful of martial law because of our country’s experience with abuses,” Robredo said. “Which is why, in our expression of support, we want to ask for assurances from the administration and the Armed Forces that what happened during the dictatorship would not happen again.”

In 1972, late President Ferdinand Marcos declared a nationwide martial law that apparently paved way for alleged numerous deaths and  human rights abuses.

“We will not allow martial law to become an instrument of violence again,” Robredo stressed.

She went on to say, “We will not allow it to pave the way for the return of the kind of leadership we fought in the past. I hope it does not return.”

She then reminded the public to stay “vigilant.”

Section 18, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution states that the president of the Philippines may place the country under martial law  in case of invasion or rebellion for not exceeding than 60 days.

It also states that the president may suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus within 48 hours from the proclamation of martial law.

Earlier on Wednesday, May 24, Duterte warned that he might expand the implementation of martial law nationwide if threats from the the Islamic State terrorist group persists.

The vice president however, insisted that there is no reason to declare a nationwide martial law. “As it is, we don’t see any reason to extend martial law coverage to Visayas and Luzon,” she said.

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