Noordwijk aan Zee, Netherlands – While serving as an observer on the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Anakpawis Party-list Representative Ariel “Ka Ayik” Casilao reiterated his call for the lifting of the martial law declared by President Rodrigo Duterte through Proclamation No. 216. The Makabayan Coalition lawmakers filed House Joint Resolution No. 13, urging for a congress joint session and revocation of the said proclamation.
“After less than a week of implementation, tens of thousands of Mindanaoans have been affected, majorly coming from poor and marginalized sectors, Moro, lumad and farmers, usually evacuees of massive militarization and aerial bombing of their communities,” Casilao said in a statement.
As of May 30, officials from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) reported that evacuees from Marawi City reached to 71,115 or about 14,313 families, but a minority 15% or 10,800 people or 2,261 families are staying at 20 evacuation centers. Among the 85% staying outside evacuation centers, are the 80% or 56,555 persons or 11,311 families still staing within Marawi City, while the remaining in Iligan City at 3,620 persons or 724 families and Cagayan de Oro City at 131 persons or 17 families.
“Tens of thousands of civilians are still trapped in Marawi City, but the government already went on a bombing spree or aerial bombing on the city, due to this incident, we would like to identify the scale of civilian casualties of these operations, including the damages to properties and people’s trauma,” Casilao said.
It was reported that dead bodies were already scattered at areas within Marawi City targetted by government’s aerial bombardment.
Martial law fuelled more intensified military operations in Moro and farmer communities in Mindanao, as demonstrated by the reported incidents:
• at dawn on May 25, or about 32 hours after the martial law declaration, more than 200 soldiers of the 39th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) conducted operations and committed indiscriminate firing in several barangays of President Roxas town of North Cotabato and Damulog town Bukidnon, which was ensued by aerial bombardments of MG520 attack helicopters and whole day shellings of 105mm howitzer canons. Near 1,600 Moro and farmers were affected by the military assault;
• on May May 27, two farmers were illegally arrested and one is missing, when soldiers under the 66th IBPA conducted military operations in Maragusan town, Compostela Valley. The arrested farmers are Nestor Quintaro and Gilbert Rodella, both members of Umana farmers group, while another farmer Eranio Lapus is still missing;
• on May 29, soldiers under the 60th IBPA, illegally arrested farmer couple Kidjol Marcelo Antay, Sr. and Noeme Antay in Laak town, Compostela Valley. The farmers are members of Namulak farmers group and were brought at the military camp in Doña Andrea Asuncion town, Davao Del Norte.
While the martial declaration through the Proclamation No. 216 was basically due to the Maute group terrorist actions in Marawi City, the government response is gradually depicting itself as heavy-handedness just to address the atrocities of near-300 members of the group.
“With the continued aerial bombings, military operations causing the mass evacuation of tens of thousands, destruction of properties and abuses, it is clear that the government has committed more abuses and barbarism against the Moro and farmer sectors in Mindanao – this very trend is isolating the president from the people,” Casilao said.
“We urge the president to lift martial law, before it is too late, or at the moment that the people’s trust is already diluted by the militaristic approach to the crisis, as advanced by his rightist cabinet members,” Casilao urged. ###