Moro groups called for the immediate lifting of martial law in Mindanao and the pull-out of both Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and United States troops following President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of the liberation of Marawi City after five months of fighting.
In a statement Thursday, Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro said they find it ironic that Duterte has already declared the city’s liberation from the Isis-inspired Maute group earlier this week
“Their (AFP and US military) continued presence, legitimized by the imposition of martial law in Mindanao and their so-called role as architects of Marawi’s rehabilitation, conveniently glosses over the myriad of violations that the military itself has perpetrated,” the groups said.
Duterte announced Marawi’s liberation on his seventh visit to the besieged city October 17, three days shy of five months of brutal fighting and aerial bombing.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence that marks the beginning of rehabilitation,” Duterte told AFP troops Wednesday.
The AFP however said Marawi has yet to be completely cleared of Maute fighters centered on an area less than a hectare in size near Lake Lanao.
National Defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana also preempted Duterte Monday, saying there is still no decision on the lifting of martial law.
“We are going to assess the entire situation in Mindanao, and we will make our recommendation to the President in due time,” Lorenzana told reporters.
Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro urged for the establishment of an independent body to probe reports of human rights violations in line with the conduct of military operations in Marawi.
The groups said the government should be held responsible for the death and displacement of Marawi residents and the destruction of their communities due to the intensive aerial bombardment.
They added that the rampant divestment and destruction of properties in Marawi, alongside the grave humanitarian situation in evacuation centers should not be dismissed following Duterte’s announcement.
“Tindeg Ranao and Suara Bangsamoro stressed the Duterte regime’s accountability in the destruction of Marawi and the displacement of thousands of its residents,” they said.
The groups said that the policies and actions undertaken by the government have undermined efforts to resolve conflict in Moro areas, and have instead aggravated abuses.
They also warned about further resistance from the Moro people amid Marawi’s destruction and prevailing humanitarian crisis in evacuation centers around the city and in neighboring provinces.
“The Moro people are further pushed to fight against [Duterte’s] fascist policies,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)