Court dismisses charge vs elderly Lumad school teacher

The Nabunturan (Compostela Valley) Regional Trial Court dismissed a murder charge against elderly and ailing Lumad school teacher Amelia Pond, the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network announced Monday.

“In the course of the outrage over the state of repression on International Human Rights Day, there is one cause for celebration—the dismissal of trumped up charges against Lumad school teacher Amelia B. Pond,” SOS in a statement said.

Pond, 65 years old and curriculum researcher for Salugpongan Ta ‘Tanu Igkanogon Learning Center (STTICLC), was detained for 15 months on a murder charge before her release last December 7.

SOS said the court’s dismissal of Pond’s case proved the charge as false after prosecution witnesses  recanted their allegations.

The group, however, lamented the hardships the ailing teacher underwent for 15 months.

“Although we celebrate the dismissal of the trumped-up case, this vindication does not diminish the anguish Pond went through,” SOS said.

‘Without humanitarian consideration’

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police arrested Pond last August 2016 while she was attending a Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) assembly in Cebu.

CIDG operatives used an alias warrant under the name of Adelfa Toledo, an alleged NPA leader wanted for murder, to justify Pond’s arrest.

In detention, Pond was placed in hospital arrest when she underwent surgery on her spine last November 11, 2016.

She was also diagnosed to be suffering from chronic renal infection, osteoporosis, and hyperlipidemia or abnormally high concentration of fats or lipids in the blood.

When Duterte terminated his unilateral ceasefire declaration with the NPA last February 4, however, Pond was transported back to Tagum jail against doctor’s orders and “without humanitarian consideration for her delicate state of recuperation,” SOS said.

Sr. Francis Añover of the RMP said Pond suffered during the transfer from Davao City to Tagum jail, repeatedly crying out in pain and asking the driver to slow down and stop for rest.

At the jail facility, Pond was taken back to her old cell beside the toilet, the nun said.

“She cannot bend due to her lumbar problem while the other prisoners sleep on the floor with only cardboards and mats,” Añover said.

Pond at her release from the Compostela Valley Province Provincial Jail last December 7. (SOS photo)

Escalation of attacks

SOS said that while Pond’s troubles may have ended,  the military’s attacks on schools and teachers have continued and escalated.

“Lumad schools are vilified through red-baiting while teachers and students are harassed and attacked,” SOS said.

The group added that the impending martial law extension in Mindanao as well as President Rodrigo Duterte’s threats against Lumad schools “suggests that state terrorism will continue to attack and endanger Lumad schools and their advocates.”

Human rights group Karapatan also hailed the dismissal of the murder charge against Pond even as it lamented that “trumped-up charges against the likes of Pond who works for Lumad schools is never new.”

“Almost always, the perpetrators of illegal arrests and detention go scot free,” Karapatan legal counsel Ma. Sol Taule told Kodao.

“Many Lumad school teachers were also charged with fabricated criminal cases in an attempt to shut down Lumad schools that were previously branded and tagged by the Duterte government as NPA schools,” the lawyer added.

Taule said Karapatan expects more illegal arrests and trumped up cases after Duterte announced his plan to extend martial rule in Mindanao for another year. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Martial rule extension to target NPA and ‘supporters’

President Rodrigo Duterte’s petition to further extend martial rule and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao for a full year will target the New People’s Army (NPA) along with other armed groups, his letter to the Senate and House of Representatives (HOR) today revealed.

In his request addressed to both Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and HOR Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte wrote the extension aims “to ensure the total eradication of DAESH-inspired Da’awatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Masriq (DIWM), other like minded Local/Foreign Terrorist Groups (L/FTGs) and Armed Terrorist Groups (ALGs) and the communist terrorists (CTs) and their coddlers, supporters, and financiers.”

Military and police pronouncements repeatedly refer to the NPA as CTs.

Duterte added his request is based on National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana’s recommendations submitted to him last December 4.

In his original Proclamation No. 216 declarating a three-month martial law in Mindanao at the outbreak of the Marawi City crisis last May 23, Duterte did not include the NPA as among the targets.

In the 150-day extension approved by 245 lawmakers last July 22, however, Lorenzana already identified the NPA as among the targets, accusing the revolutionary group as “taking advantage of the situation.”

Duterte accused the NPA of perpetrating 385 so-called atrocitied that killed 41 and wounding 62 government troopers in 2017, as well as 59 arson incidents that targeted businesses such as mining and plantations.

“As a direct result of these atrocities on the part of the NPA, I was constrained to issue Proclamation No. 360 on 23 November 2017 declaring the termination of peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (NDF-CPP-NPA) effective immediately,” Duterte wrote.

“I followed this up with Proclamation no. 374 on 05 December 2017, where I declared the CPP-NPA as a designated/identified terrorist organization under the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012, and the issuance of a directive to the Secretary of Justice to file a petition in the appropriate court praying to proscribe the NDF-CPP-NPA as a terrorist organization under the Human Security Act of 2007,” he added.

These recent developments involving the NDF-CPP-NPA forebode another year of intensified armed hostilities which continue to make Mindanao the hotbed of rebellion, Duterte wrote.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo last December 8 promised there would be no martial law abuses should it be extended.

Aravelo added martial law does not target any particular group.


”This is all hogwash, of course,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in reaction to Arevalo’s statement.

Contrary to AFP’s assurances, Duterte’s martial rule in Mindanao victimizes civilians, mostly farmers and Lumad, Palabay said.

“Aside from being expert spin doctors, the AFP has also been consistent in denying their atrocities despite witnesses to their crimes,” Palabay said.

Many organizations in different regions in Mindanao, particularly local peasant and indigenous organizations, are targeted for their campaigns against militarization and for agrarian reform,” she added.

Palabay said that members of the Compostela Farmers Assocation (CFA) in the Southern Mindanao Region (SMR), for example, were targets of illegal arrest and political killings.

“These attacks merely escalated after the declaration of martial law, what with the military’s red-tagging of the group as symphatizers. The latest member of the CFA extrajudicially killed by State forces is Rodrigo Timoteo on November 28, 2017,” Palabay said.

Palabay said that activists and progressive groups have long been targeted by State security forces in line with Duterte’s implementation of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan.

She added that the situation was made worse by the declaration of martial law that further endangered individuals, groups, and entire communities who struggle and fight for various advocacies.

“Another year of martial law will not be beneficial to anyone, except the fascist military dogs and their equally proudly fascist leader,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Palace announces plan to extend ML in Mindanao on Human Rights Day

As tens of thousands of activists observed International Human Rights Day Sunday with protest actions nationwide against rising human rights violations, Malacañan Palace chose the day to announce that President Rodrigo Duterte is set to ask the House of Representatives for a year-long extension of martial law in Mindanao.

House Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas told reporters yesterday Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has notified him of Duterte’s request they expect to receive Monday.

Medialdea confirmed Fariñas’s announcement, saying the President has already signed the request to extend martial rule in Mindanao for the entire duration of 2018 when its current extension expires on December 31.

The HOR and the Senate will extend their session from December 13 to 15 to jointly vote on Duterte’s request.

Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said the military again asked Duterte to extend martial rule in Mindanao to sustain its “momentum against terror groups” allegedly regrouping after the Marawi siege, a Philippine Daily Inquirer report said.

“There have been reports that they are recruiting already in the Lanao area,” Andolong said.

Earlier, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar and Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla separately pointed to Daulah Islamiyah fi Ranao (Islamic State in Lanao) as the next terror threat in Mindanao.

Nationwide martial rule

Human rights group Karapatan quickly opposed Duterte’s reported plan, saying martial rule in Mindanao also targets peasants and Lumad.

A day after leading International Human Rights Day rallies in 21 venues nationwide, Karapatan said the extension of martial rule in Mindanao will only create an environment for State security forces to continue [human rights] violations without accountability.

“This is a dangerous precedent that inches the entire country closer to a nationwide declaration of martial rule. Martial law in Mindanao has paved the way for the intensification of rights violations – both within and outside of Marawi,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Karapatan said it has recorded at least 29 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Mindanao, 15 of whom were from Southern Mindanao Region, since the declaration of martial law in May 23.

The group said it also documented 15 cases of torture, 23 victims of frustrated extrajudicial killings, 58 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 335,686 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings.

Karapatan added there have been 401,730 victims of forced evacuations, 16,612 of which were documented independent of the Marawi siege, mostly in the regions of Caraga, Southern Mindanao, and SOCKSARGENDS.

“Many organizations in different regions in Mindanao, particularly local peasant and indigenous organization, are targeted for their campaigns against militarization and for agrarian reform,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Martial Law survivors denounce Marcos postal stamp

Martial law survivors denounced Philippine Postal Corporation’s (PhilPost) issuance of a postal stamp featuring the face and signature of former President Ferdinand Marcos, adding it is another way of “turning history upside down.”

Philippine Postal Corporation’s Ferdinand Marcos Birth Centennial postage stamp.

The Coalition Against the Return of the Marcoses in Malacañang (CARMMA) accused PhilPost of “complicity in sanitizing history and stamping out the sins and accountabilities of the Marcoses” in its issuance of the last dictator’s birth centennial postal stamp.

“Another stamping of Marcos rehabilitation and revision of history, another stolen credit,” CARMMA in a statement said.

CARMMA spokesperson Bonifacio Ilagan said the stamp is an undeserved commemoration and part of the Duterte government’s unabated political rehabilitation of the Marcoses.

“Are we soon seeing the images of the plunderer and human rights violator all over the country because we must be reminded that he was born 100 years ago? Extremely disgusting,” Ilagan said.

Ilagan was abducted and heavily tortured by Marcos’ Philippine Constabulary (PC) in the 1970s. His sister Rizalina, believed to be abducted by the PC, remains missing.

In its defense, PhilPost said the committee that decided on the stamp deliberated and approved its release following guidelines on such stamps for present and past Presidents.

“There are no politics or advised [sic] from other parties, we just stick with the general rule on the issuance of stamps on birth centenaries of Philippine Presidents,” PhilPost said.

Ilagan, however, said PhilPost did not announce the release of the 50,000 stamps, knowing there would be strong objections and protest actions.

“Notwithstanding the agency’s cautionary move, it has sadly become complicit in the continuing sanitization of history by issuing the stamp and thus stamping out the sins and accountabilities of the Marcoses. Our real heroes who were likewise featured by PhilPost must be turning in their graves!” Ilagan said.

”With Duterte’s full support, there is no stopping the Marcoses in their delusional ambition to get back to power, thereby reinforcing the president’s escalating antipeople and tyrannical rule,” Ilagan added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Anti-tyranny rallies gather tens of thousands across the country and abroad

The Rodrigo Duterte government received the biggest public condemnation yet of widespread human rights violations in the country as tens of thousands across the Philippines and abroad took to the streets Thursday to protest extrajudicial killings and tyranny.

At least 30,000 protesters braved a downpour midway through the Rizal Park protest in Manila as speakers and artists took turns in condemning Duterte’s drug war and “undemocratic government.”

Earlier, at least 20,000 activists joined 3,000 members of various national minority groups in a protest action in Mendiola that ended the three-week Lakbayan ng Moro at Pambansang Minorya 2017.

Rody’s Cube was the second Duterte effigy to be burnt by the activists. (Photo by Kathy Yamzon)

They burned another Duterte effigy dubbed Rody’s Cube showing the various faces of Duterte as a US puppet, Hitler and Marcos before marching to Rizal Park for the main event.

In her speech before the Rizal Park crowd, Movement Against Tyranny convenor Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB said she is heartened by the many young people who attended.

Former Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares likened Duterte’s style of governance to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos who he said was quick to send opposition to jail.

“The Filipino people should never allow martial law to be imposed again on the entire country,” Colmenares said.

An evacuee from besieged Marawi City demands an end to the aerial bombing of their homes. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

The Rizal Park crowd occupied Roxas Boulevard from Padre Burgos Drive to TM Kalaw Avenue.

In Bicol, 13,000 protesters held simultaneous rallies in Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Masbate, Albay and Sorsogon, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Bicol reported.

Thousands also held protest actions in cities across the country, including Baguio, Vigan, Tacloban, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Cebu, Butuan, Tandag, Davao and others.

In Hong Kong, members of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a protest rally in front of the Philippine Consulate in the city.

“We (migrant workers) did our part in resisting the old tyrant. We shall do our part in resisting the rising tyranny of the Duterte government. We say no to Duter-tyranny!” Bayan-Hong Kong chairperson Eman Villanueva said in a statement.

A picket protest was also held in The Netherlands as Migrante-Europe members read their statement of condemnation before officials of the Philippine Embassy at The Hague.

Saying it with a placard and shouting it too, (Photo by R. Villanueva)

In Tago, Surigao del Sur, 36th Infantry Battallion-Philippine Army elements held about 400 Tandag rally participants until rescued by United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Modesto Villasanta.

Another Philippine Army unit in San Miguel, Surigao del Sur tried preventing more protesters from proceeding to Tandag while Philippine National Police personnel reportedly harassed protesters in Iligan City.

Meanwhile, the pro-Duterte rally at Plaza Miranda ended early at about six o’clock in the evening.

The Quiapo rally was attended by participants bussed in from Tondo, San Jose del Monte, and Caloocan, among others.

The controversial Lions Club feeding activity on Rizal Park’s Burnham Green appeared to have not happened, however.

Kodao observed no activity near the stage in front of the Quirino Grandstand despite the National Park Development Committee’s decision that the Lions Club needed the space more than the rally. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

The Burnham Green was empty when the Lions Club feeding activity was supposed to be held. (Photo by R. Villanueva)

Government playing dirty, sabotaging Luneta rally–MAT

Organizers of the rally at Rizal Park accused the Rodrigo Duterte government of playing dirty in its bid to undermine the protest action today.

In a statement, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) slammed officials of the National Parks Development Authority (NPDC) for assigning the area around the Lapu-Lapu monument instead of the Burnham Greens in front of Quirino Grandstand as the rally venue.

“Duterte said all parks are open to be venues of peaceful protests (today) and has even declared it a National Day of Protest. But this is belied by the actions of his officials at the NDPC who would like to relegate the rally to an insignificant portion of Luneta,” MAT said.

“The Lapu-Lapu monument is not large enough to safely accommodate the tens of thousands expected to join the Sept 21 protests,” the group added.

As a huge stage was already being erected yesterday on the Burnham Greens, the NPDC told MAT representatives of the Lions Club activity.

“Despite having been informed of our rally, they instead assigned the Burnham Green, which can accommodate a crowd of 100,000, to the Lions Club for an event that has only 2,000 participants,” MAT said.

Lions Club officials told MAT they will abide by the NDPC’s decision.

Meanwhile, pro-Duterte rallies will also be held at the Bonifacio Shrine and Plaza Miranda, in accordance with Duterte’s declaration of a National Day of Protest.

Under Rizal’s gaze

MAT announced its rally against extrajudicial killings and tyranny under Duterte shall instead be held on Roxas Boulevard from Padre Burgos to TM Kalaw avenues.

“We will gather to end the killings and fight tyranny under the gaze of our hero Jose Rizal and with the Philippine flag flying above,” MAT convenor Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB said.

“In the interest of safety, practicality and symbolism, we are gathering at the area in front of the Rizal Monument and Philippine flag. This is where we will exercise our right to free expression and assembly,” Mananzan said.

MAT said the rally shall start at four o’clock and will end at eight in the evening with the simultaneous ringing of church bells and handheld bells and ringtones by the rallyists.

Pre-rally events

Before the Rizal Park rally, organizers said various groups will hold separate assemblies and events.

At two o’clock at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Caloocan Bishop Virgilio David will lead a Mass for the families of the victims of extrajudicial killings.

An ecumenical prayer gathering will also be held at the United Methodist Church along TM Kalaw to be led by Rev. Dr. Eleazar Fernandez, President of the Union Theological Seminary.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan for its part will lead a march from the University of Santo Tomas to Mendiola at noon before proceeding to Rizal Park. Three thousand participants of the Lakbayan 2017 shall join the march.

Meanwhile, schools along Taft Avenue will gather and hold coordinated marches to Rizal Park at around three o’clock. They will be joined by students and faculty from various Quezon City schools.

Lawyers will assemble at two o’clock in front of the Supreme Court led by the National Union of People’s Lawyers, while lawyers from Makati will hold a caravan led by the Artikulo 3 group.

MAT said rallies will also be held in various parts of Southern Tagalog, Baguio, Ilocos Sur, Cebu, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Tacloban, Butan and Davao City. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Never again to tyrants!’ progressives say

Progressive groups commemorated Ferdinand Marcos’ 100th birth anniversary Monday by holding a protest rally at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetary) in Taguig City, saying President Rodrigo Duterte is as much as tyrant as the late dictator.

(Photos by Kathy Yamzon and Roberto de Castro)

Groups launch Movement Against Tyranny

Various groups and personalities launched the Movement Against Tyranny in Quezon City today “to unite all freedom-loving Filippines against tyranny and build a broad front to counter the increasing fascism and militarist rule of the (Rodrigo) Duterte government.”

The group approved the manifesto “Stop the Killings, Stand Against Tyranny” that accuses Duterte of unleashing police and police-backed death squads blamed for the the “brutal and murderous war on drugs” that has victimized thousands of mostly poor, small-time drug users and pushers.

Warning the Duterte government is fast unfolding into another despotic regime, the group calls on the public “to take a stand, speak out and act” against the extrajudicial killings and other “blatant acts of tyranny.”

MAT is the broadest alliance of groups yet that opposes Duterte’s war on drug, which include religious and political leaders, human rights organizations, activists, academics, lawyers, journalists and many others.

2017 SONA: Change is not always for the better

By Sonny Africa

Among Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s idiosyncrasies is preferring a vulgar stream-of-consciousness approach in his speeches. This is even for the annual state of the nation address (SONA) at the opening of Congress which is undoubtedly the government’s highest-profile policy speech of the year. The president’s choice is a matter of style but then this also means that his SONAs shouldn’t be analyzed the way other presidents’ SONAs are – that is, as a coherent comprehensive statement of the administration’s policies and priorities.

Having said that, Pres. Duterte’s 2017 SONA can still be interpreted against everything else he has been doing in the past year. What becomes clear is that he continues to build his image and behave as a benevolent paternalistic strongman.

This is dangerous, anti-democratic, and anti-development especially in the specific conditions of the country. The Philippines’ political institutions are underdeveloped with a strong patronage-clientelist streak. The military and police are abusive and violate human rights with impunity. Oligarchic and business elites abuse their economic power with the backing of the government.

Authoritarianism was unfortunately prominent in the president’s SONA and in his press conference afterwards. He played up the need for a forceful – even militarist – approach to dealing with the country’s problems.

The president repeatedly highlighted the importance of the military and police and strengthening them with tens of thousands of additional troops and hardware. He took a combative stance against millions of Filipinos – “anarchic” Leftists occupying the streets, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), Lumad schools, Moro who will “side [against] government”, and poor alleged drug users and pushers. He defended martial law as an expedient way to deal with peace and order problems, never mind that this is excessive and unnecessary. And he again pitched for the death penalty for “deterrence” as well as “retribution”.

The president also trivialized human rights and due process. These were portrayed as a hindrance to tackling the menace of illegal drugs, criminality and corruption. The military and police were also assured of impunity with the president declaring: “I have your backs.” And yet these are such basic liberal democratic values.

The president, in discussing his tax reform program, was appreciative of a sycophant Congress yet threatening to those uncooperative. He commended the 246 members of the House of Representatives (HOR) who supported his anti-poor and pro-rich tax reform bill. But, with the measure now in the hands of the Senate, he also threatened the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee for being critical especially of the tax program’s anti-poor aspects.

The president’s SONA had precious few fragments of reforms. The most prominent was prioritizing the environment over mining and other destructive activities. Also potentially important was the exhortation to set up mineral processing and manufacturing industries in the country, notwithstanding ambiguity if these would be genuinely Filipino or just foreign firms setting up shop in the country. The budget for assistance to overseas Filipino workers was doubled to over Php1 billion. He also dramatically told the sick to go to any hospital and just say that the president would take care of their expenses.

And yet the 2017 SONA was actually dismissive of the serious socioeconomic problems the country is facing. There was no acknowledgement that the economy actually shed almost 400,000 jobs in the first year of the Duterte administration and that poverty remains deep and widespread among tens of millions of Filipinos. There was no sign that the president grasped how neoliberal Arroyonomics and Aquinomics resulted in rapid growth, profits and wealth for a few amid poverty and joblessness for the many.

There was, if anything, oversimplification to bolster the drive to authoritarianism: “The economy surges when there is peace and order.”

This is blind to the long-standing and deep structural inequities that keep the economy underdeveloped. Landlords and rural elites take the greatest part of what landless peasants and farmworkers produce. Capitalists exploit workers through low wages and scant benefits, and charge consumers the highest prices they can. Domestic agriculture and industry are stifled to preserve foreign capital’s markets and sources of raw materials.

Indeed, the talk of “investor confidence” and “protecting local and foreign investors” is a virtual defense of these inequities. A declaration to uphold a bias for the disenfranchised and propertyless poor in the economic sphere would have been much more welcome. The impression instead is of growing authoritarianism as the political framework to press the neoliberal economic agenda against growing protest and opposition.

These are alarming developments in the state of the nation. The tens of thousands of rallyists outside the Batasan complex and many thousands more across the country are however vivid expression of people asserting their social and economic rights. The administration would do well to heed their grievances and demands. They are the real forces of change that, looking beyond particular administrations, play the long game of bringing the nation forward to a democratic and developed future for the people.—IBON Features

MidEast OFWs react to Duterte’s 2nd SONA

DUBAI–Filipinos in the UAE gave a mixed bag of reactions on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila Monday.

Some praised him for his straightforward speech while others criticized his bloody war on illegal drugs; others gave him high marks while some gave him a satisfactory grade, and yet others have raised concerns over the continuing war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group as well as the extension of martial law in Mindanao, in southern Philippines.

Solid Duterte supporters have expectedly shown their complete trust to President Duterte.

“I trust him in whatever action of government he wants to make,” Dubai resident Mosh Lafuente said. “I fully support him. His campaign on peace and order, including his war against illegal drugs, is really very tough but that is precisely what the Philippines needs,” he said.

Milo Torres added: I’m very happy to see him and hear him speaking from his heart with no hesitation to what he wanted to say. Martial law in Mindanao is really necessary and his call for the re-imposition of death penalty is the answer for those who committed heinous crimes.

“Duterte is not perfect and I give a satisfactory rating on his first year in office. He has done a good job on his war against drugs and, as a matter of fact, I never felt safer during my last vacation in our hometown,” added Darwin Grafil.

But many criticized Duterte’s martial law and the many extrajudicial killings in his year-old presidency.

“In his SONA, President Duterte said martial law is needed until the last terrorist is taken out of Mindanao,” Sahron Roy Tamano, former MarCom (Maranao Community) president, said. “But the war between government troops and Daesh-inspired Maute Group has been going on for more than two months and there is still no end in aerial bombings in Marawi and other rebel-occupied communities,” she said.

Tamano added: “I speak on behalf of Maranaos (people of Marawi) in the UAE and I can say that we are not entirely against the extension of martial law to quell the terrorists but what we are afraid of is what will happen next after this war. We are afraid that the military might abuse their authority. Some of us might be picked up on mere suspicion that we have relatives connected with the Mautes,” she said.

“Duterte has to keep his promise to end this armed conflict in Marawi soon because every day that this war is dragging on, more people – particularly the civilians – will die,” Tamano underlined.

Nhel Morona, Migrante Middle East coordinator, added: “The extension of martial law in Mindanao could lead to a military takeover of the government. Duterte is now showing that he is leaning to the Right and such move could pave the way for a possible declaration of martial law nationwide.”

“As proven in history, martial law does not bring peace and stability and can only lead to human rights violations,” he explained.

Morona also criticised Duterte for pulling the plug on the peace negotiations with the communists.

“President Duterte previously bragged that he’s a leftist president, but what happened? Peace talks are not just about the cessation of hostilities. At the negotiating table, both parties talk about the root causes of armed conflict and discuss fundamental social change. Now, the president has thrown this down the drain and he is on war footing,” Morona underlined.

On Duterte’s war on drugs, Filipino tech-entrepreneur Mannix Pabalan said: “The Duterte administration anchored its campaign to the presidency to clean up the country with illegal drugs. So far out of thousands killed already, we still have to see a drug lord get their day in justice. It is unfortunate that we still hear news that drug lords are feasting inside jail while they manufacture and operate their drug syndicates behind bars with the help of the men in uniform themselves,” Pabalan said. # (Angel L. Tesorero)

An earlier version of this report was published in The Khaleej Times (