Bishop slams martial law extension

Bishop slams martial law extension

A Catholic bishop slammed the extension of the martial law in southern Philippines for another year, warning against the “intoxicating effect” of power.

In an overwhelming number of votes, the lawmakers on Wednesday gave President Rodrigo Duterte a green light to extend the military rule in Mindanao for the whole of next year.

Duterte has asked Congress to extend martial law due to supposed threats posed by communist rebels and Muslim extremists since a five-month conflict ended there in October.

He hinted the possibility of imposing it nationwide should terrorism threat spread and the communist insurgents intensify their attacks.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, who formerly chaired the Church’s social action, justice and peace ministry, said Duterte is “boasting” it again now that he got the support from a “subservient” Congress.

“This is what we get when we toy with power. One is never contented with enough power. It gobbles more power—unless people stand up and voice out—it is enough! This is not right!” Pabillo said.

“Once one has tasted power, it is hard to say it is enough. This is true for Duterte, this is true for the police and this is true for the armed forces,” he said.

Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao last May 23 due to attacks by terrorists of the Islamic State-inspired Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups on the Islamic city of Marawi in Lanao del Norte.

The country’s worst security crisis in decades killed more than 1,1000 people, mostly militants, and displaced about 350,000 residents.

Creeping authoritarianism

Although Marawi was declared “liberated” last October, military officials said threats remain in Mindanao.

Martial law critics, however, argued that an extension requires actual rebellion; and without it is unconstitutional.

“They give a veneer of legality to martial law but they are making the abnormal normal, the extraordinary ordinary,” Pabillo added.

The bishop also warned that the extension is “conditioning the minds” of the people that martial law is alright and normal.

“Authoritarianism is creeping surreptitiousness among us—unless we react and say ‘do we really need it?’” said Pabillo.

“We cannot remain silent in front of the machinations of Congress who are acting not as representative of the people but of the one in power. Congress can no longer be trusted that they serve the interest of the people,” he said.

‘No need for martial law’

Earlier, two other bishops in Mindanao voiced opposition to the martial law extension.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro said that another year of military rule could affect the business environment in the region.

“Martial law will only affect the economic standing of Mindanao. There are less investors because of that,” he said.

The Jesuit prelate said the security concerns of the government should be handled by the “normal” police and military system. “There is no need for martial law,” he said.

Bishop Edwin dela Peña of Marawi also stressed the need to hear the voices of the Maranao people on martial law.

He said that if it had to be extended based on the assessment of the military, it should be limited to areas of tension like Marawi to facilitate the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the city.

“But the people of Marawi themselves should be asked, not me, what is of their best interest,” he said.

“As Duyog Marawi, our mission is to accompany the Maranao and be a supporter to their struggles. Theirs is the power to make the decisions,” Dela Peña said.  CBCPNews