MANILA, May 25 (Mabuhay) — A human rights group on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s “casual” reference to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law should be a cause for alarm.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch Legal and Policy Director James Ross said Duterte’s mention of Marcos was akin to summoning the ghost of the late strongman.
“And for Filipinos who lived through martial law under Ferdinand Marcos, Duterte’s casual reference to the late dictator should be especially alarming,” he said.
Duterte signed Proclamation No. 216 while in Russia on May 23 placing Mindanao under martial law after around a hundred militants trying to get recognition from ISIS attacked Marawi City as security forces were dispatched to the area to serve an arrest warrant on Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon.
On his flight back home after cutting his Russian trip short, Duterte said his martial law would not be different from Marcos’ martial law, pointing out he would be “harsh.”
HRW’s Ross stressed that during Marcos’ martial law, security forces carried out “massive arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, and countless extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances for which very few were ever punished.”
But Duterte also assured that there would be no abuses during his own martial law. Ross, however, said that the President’s war on drugs was lawless with police and agents killing over 7,000 drug suspects.
“Military restraint in Mindanao may be wishful thinking,” he said.
HRW, thus, urged the Congress and the Supreme Court to hold back “wildly abusive” Duterte.
“Congress can revoke the martial law proclamation by majority vote and the Supreme Court can rule on the factual basis for its declaration. Martial law can’t be used to suspend the constitution, the courts or the legislature, and military courts can’t try civilians if the civil courts function. Anyone arrested must be charged by a judge within three days or released,” Ross said
“But words on paper are just that. The coming days and weeks will see if the Philippine Congress and courts are up to the task of keeping a wildly abusive president in check. Since Duterte took office nearly a year ago, they haven’t been,” he added. (MNS)