DFA assures int’l community: No martial law abuses

By Pia Lee-Brago

MANILA, Philippines – Protection of human rights is guaranteed under martial law proclaimed by President Duterte in Mindanao, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano told the diplomatic corps in a briefing yesterday.

“May I assure you that the President and the government remain steadfast in the commitment to uphold the Philippine Constitution and ensure that efforts to enforce peace and order are done with due regard to the laws and preservation of our people’s constitutional rights,” Cayetano said in his opening remarks at the briefing.

“In other words no abuses,” he said.

Cayetano also explained the legal basis for and the objectives of martial law in Mindanao, which Duterte imposed hours after the Maute group took over parts of Marawi City. The terrorists killed several civilians, took hostages and burned buildings.

Duterte himself announced shortly after returning from Moscow that he would not tolerate abuses as security forces began their operation to retake Marawi, Cayetano stressed.

He also emphasized that despite the martial law, democratic institutions like the courts and Congress remain open.

“However due to actual rebellion, terrorism and the presence of ISIS on Philippine soil the declaration of martial law in Mindanao became a necessity,” he added.

Questions raised by representatives of embassies and international organizations during the diplomatic briefing, Cayetano said, were focused on the duration of martial law, its scope, and on the capabilities of the Maute group.

He said many of the inquiries came from representatives of countries with serious problems with terrorism.

“So the ISIS group is failing in trying to attract bigger groups that have been fighting for justice or against historical injustice in Mindanao,” Cayetano said but declined to discuss other details on the briefing.

The DFA chief said the President’s declaration of martial law in the entire Mindanao for 60 days is necessary to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and ensure public safety.

The Philippines also assured the international community that the government is in full control of the situation.

Meanwhile, the public is allowed in today’s briefing for House members by security and Cabinet officials but may be asked to leave if discussions veer toward sensitive national security issues.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters the meeting will no longer be held in a closed-door executive session as originally agreed upon by members of the supermajority coalition, but that media coverage will only be limited to what is necessary.

He said he “amended” the House leadership’s original policy through a motion in plenary Monday night. He said the change was approved at a special meeting of the House committee on rules, but it was overlooked by a House official, Fariñas said.

“That was really what I stated in the special meeting, but director Jef Baquiran forgot to change the script he prepared. And, like a newsreader, I simply read the wrong script. Hence, my amendment,”  he said.

Duterte’s lawmaker-allies in the House voted overwhelmingly Monday night to convene into a Committee of the Whole for the purposes of taking up the legal basis of the 60-day martial law in Mindanao.

Invited to the briefing were Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and defense and military officials, including Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, among others. – With Delon Porcalla

(Article and Image from www.philstar.com)

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